The government yesterday said it would only ban the controversial weedkiller glyphosate once it had the go-ahead of the EU.

This comes months after the Environment Ministry told this news­paper that the government had begun the process to ban glyphosate.

When contacted this week, the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority pointed out that products containing the chemical on its own were not being banned. It said Malta had revoked “with immediate effect products which contain the active substance glyphosate and which include the co-formulant POE-tallowamine”.

The use of stock was allowed until last Thursday for sale purposes and distribution. The disposal, storage and use of existing stocks of the pesticides would be completely banned on April 12.

However, while the regulator insisted that products containing glyphosate only were not being banned, Environment Minister José Herrera said on social media that glyphosate would be illegal come April.

Asked for a clarification, the ministry spokeswoman referred to the government’s vote last year against a European Commission proposal to extend the approval of glyphosate. Following the vote, the Commission issued a regulation extending its approval under certain conditions.

One of the conditions concerned POE-tallowamine – a co-formulant mixed with glyphosate to be used as a herbicide. The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed in this particular case affirmed that it was carcinogenic and banned its use, the ministry’s spokeswoman said.

“Therefore, Malta revoked with immediate effect products containing both the active substance glyphosate and the co-formulant POE-tallowamine,” she added.

“One has to appreciate that this issue is of EU competence and Malta has to adhere to what is decided there,” she added.

The spokeswoman later clarified that it was not up to the Maltese Government to ban glyphosate unilaterally, since such a decision depended on the EU.

“It must be emphasised that at this stage, the EU has only concluded that glyphosate is harmful and carcinogenic when it is mixed with the co-formulant POE-tallowamine…

“At the moment, the government will only ban the use of glyphosate without the POE-tallowamine once the ban is ordered by the EU.”

She noted that the products in Malta containing glyphosate as an active ingredient and POE-tallowamine were Hopper Blu, Round Up, Round Up Max and Seccherba Respect.

A study has just been released showing that glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup caused liver disease in rats.

These  findings are the first to show a causal link between glyphosate consumption at a real-world environmental dose and a serious condition.

This is not the first news of the sort that raised alarm about glyphosate. The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, in 2015, declared it to be a “probable carcinogen”.

When asked about the risks of exposure to glyphosate through food, registered nutritionist and occupational therapist Daniela Cassola noted that its use had increased widely and so had human exposure to it.

Still, she pointed out that more biomonitoring and epidemiological and toxicology studies were needed to determine the effects of glyphosate on human health.

Referring to international environmental health reviews, Dr Cassola noted there was not enough data to guarantee that the current use of glyphosate was safe.

She said humans that could be exposed to glyphosate through several sources and residues had reportedly been found in foods including honey, soy sauce, cereals, mushrooms, pulses, vegetable oils and drinking water.

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