New Brunswick

Glyphosate report not final word, says N.B. health officer

The acting Chief Medical Officer of Health says New Brunswick may not have an update on the herbicide glyphosate until Health Canada releases their own report in 2017.

Despite report, acting Chief Medical Officer of Health 'uncertain' on safety of using Roundup

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell released the glyphosate report to the public Friday morning. (CBC)

The glyphosate report released to the public on Friday won't be the last word until Health Canada has weighed in, according to the acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell.

The report on glyphosate uses in New Brunswick began shortly after a branch of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate "probably carcinogenic to humans" in May of 2015. 

"When we contacted Health Canada to find out where they were at with their assessments and find out what we should expect and when we should expect those results from their findings, they said March 2017 so that's what we're waiting for," said Russell on CBC Fredericton's Information Morning.

Glyphosate is a herbicide marketed by the Monsanto corporation, under the trade name of "Roundup" which is used for killing weeds and controlling undergrowth.

The currently released report suggests that while other jurisdictions tend to use the herbicide 90 per cent in agriculture, N.B. uses 60 per cent in its forestry industry with aerial spraying.

Roundup is sold by the Monsanto Corporation as a weedkiller and a way to control undergrowth. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
"We wanted to reassure ourselves that again our usage pattern as it exists today in New Brunswick was not putting us at a higher risk than other jurisdictions that are continuing to use the product," said Russell.

She said the report currently released now was never meant to be public, but was made so in the effort to be transparent.

"It was an internal, very technical internal document to provide us with the information that we needed to make decisions about what the risks were for New Brunswickers again, based on usage that currently we are seeing here."

Effects not determined yet

Russell said she had no answer yet what effects other possible compounds regularly mixed with the spray formula could have on humans.

She said the department is waiting on the report Health Canada has promised will be ready by March 2017.

The report released was intended to be a "technical internal document to provide us with the information that we needed," says Russell. (CBC)
"It is hard to sound reassuring when you hear the words cancer and uncertainty in the same sentence so that is the challenge here, we just really want to be evidence-based, we want to look at the best science that's available right now," Russell said.

No precautionary measures suggested

Quebec banned the use of glyphosate on their public forests in 2001 to eliminate the use of chemicals, sometimes referred to as a precautionary measure.

"In certain situations where there is scientific uncertainty, it would be something to undertake, to be erring on the side of caution," said Russell.

The long awaited report on glyphosate was released last week and acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Jennifer Russell speaks with Terry about the findings. 15:03
"But there are no real hard or fast rules about that and each case is really considered differently and carefully and transparency is obviously very essential in that type of situation."

There have been no precautionary measures against glyphosate taken in New Brunswick as of yet, but Russell says the department will continue to actively monitor the status of the herbicide.

"We're very concerned about this as well and we want to make sure we're doing our very best to make sure that the public health of New Brunswickers is protected."