Thursday, 21 January 2016

Urban Glyphosate Rhetoric

A couple of days ago the Greens started a petition addressed to the head of the EPA which reads:
We request the urgent reassessment of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides in the interests of New Zealanders’ health, and the health of our environment. 
Significant scientific evidence has shown that:
  1. Glyphosate affects bacteria’s  response to antibiotics
  2. Glyphosate damages hormones and is a probable carcinogen
  3. Glyphosate is often combined in weed killers with other active ingredients that are more toxic to animals and people than glyphosate by itself
  4. When it enters waterways, glyphosate harms fish and other aquatic animals
  5. Glyphosate negatively affects the natural behaviour of bees, causing them to forget where their hives are
  6. Glyphosate leaches into groundwater
  7. We don’t know what a safe level of glyphosate is, as it has never been assessed by regulators at sub-lethal levels.
We request that glyphosate be phased out from all uses. 
This afternoon, prominent skeptic Grant Jacobs used his SciBlog slot to hit back. Coming from a scientist it's a fascinating post because the science part of it is limited to contesting the second half of point 2 above. It is silent on all of the other points.

There's a lot of non-science padding out those almost 2000 words though and it's mostly ad-hominem, attacking the researcher and the person commissioning the research for being insufficiently saintly (scientific) and also attacking the idea as not "evidence based". This is not what I'd expect from a science journalist, but Grant isn't one of them: he's a science communicator. There is an important difference.

I'll keep my eyes open for scientific rebuttal of the above points but I have updated my prior in the light of Grant's post. If scientists have serious counterarguments to the other 6 and a half points I'd have expected Grant to cite them.

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