Environmental scaremongering a la Rachel Carson from the ABC:

Councils across Australia are using the weed killer glyphosate in sensitive areas like playgrounds, despite a World Health Organisation (WHO) warning the chemical probably causes cancer.

Glyphosate was originally trade marked as “Roundup” and is commonly used by households, farms and local councils.

Last year, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) upgraded its assessment of the common herbicide from “possibly” to “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

A few minutes of online research reveals that the IARC’s inclusion of glyphosate in the probably carcinogenic (2a) group is highly controversial. Further, the article incorrectly claims that the Netherlands is moving to ban the chemical: glyphosate will remain in use commercially.

It’s worth noting that the 2a list includes red meat and acrylamide (commonly found in roasted, grilled or fried foods). And if you really want something to worry about, consider aflatoxins, which are ubiquitous, toxic and potently carcinogenic (IARC group 1):

Aflatoxins may be present in a wide range of food commodities, particularly cereals, oilseeds, spices and tree nuts. Maize, groundnuts (peanuts), pistachios, brazils, chillies, black pepper, dried fruit and figs are all known to be high risk foods for aflatoxin contamination, but the toxins have also been detected in many other commodities. Milk, cheese and other dairy products are at risk of contamination by aflatoxin M. The highest levels are usually found in commodities from warmer regions of the world where there is a great deal of climatic variation.

It is important to recognise that, although it is primary food commodities that usually become contaminated with aflatoxins by mould growth, these toxins are very stable and may pass through quite severe processes. For this reason they can be a problem in processed foods, such as peanut butter.

The ABC exaggerates the glyphosate hazard seeking to elicit an emotional how-dare-they-endanger-our-children response in readers. In short, it’s crap.

Update: The third paragraph of the ABC article has changed (added bit bolded below):

Last year, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) upgraded its assessment of the common herbicide from “possibly” to “probably carcinogenic to humans,” placing it in the same category as red meat.

The article bears an update notice but, as always, direct reference to the nature of the change is omitted. Adding those few words, and early on, considerably improves the article.

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