The glyphosate (herbicide) issue arose a long time ago and is still going round and round. With so much evidence projected by both sides i.e. those that claim that it should be banned due to high risks and those that insist that there is no harm at all; no one seems to take any decision. There is no point in appointing a committee, however eminent the members are, just to ‘look into it’ and give a report. The simple way out of the conundrum is to carry out a local risk assessment.
The Focal Point for this issue (Ministry of Environment? Ministry of Health?or H.E. The President?) should appoint a Risk Assessment Committee based on the perceived risks. For example, if the risk is to human health, there should be a Toxicologist in the committee and if there is a risk to the soil, then there must be a Soil scientist and a Soil Microbiologist. In addition, there should be experts on Weed science and on Weedicides. Other experts can be added or consulted as and when required, based on the hazard and the target of the hazard. The committee should consider only evidence based on good science from both parties and other sound scientific material from international agencies as well as local institutes.
The Risks should be assessed for each hazard per target and an overall Risk Assessment Report should be submitted with details of each hazard, exposure of the target to each hazard and possible consequences of such exposure. The committee can also request sound scientific evidence from the public as well. Public participation in the decision-making procedure is vital. The report which should be based on sound science only, should also provide Risk Management regimes, if necessary. Once the report is submitted to the Focal Point, an Advisory Committee (appointed by the Focal Point) should also consider other related concerns in addition to the Risk Assessment Report– are there any socio-economic issues? Will there be other issues related to the final decision? Why did other countries ban this? What alternative steps did they take? How do countries that use it, manage the risks and control its use? Will the decision to allow its use make it possible for other material such as genetically modified organisms that require large scale use of such herbicides to be brought to the country? Such concerns should also be considered together with the Risk Assessment Report and forwarded to the Focal Point for the final decision to be made. This is a really good and credible scientific procedure to follow. Otherwise the merry-go-round will continue and more and more will jump into it and/or some foreign expert will come and tell us what to do.