THE VICTORIAN government has come out to clarify what an internal review into glyphosate will look at, telling farmers the review will look only at the use of glyphosate on public lands and how safety of spray applicators can be improved.
Victorian Minister for Environment Lily D'Ambrosio confirmed there was a Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) review into how glyphosate products are used on public land.
Ms D'Ambrosio confirmed this step had been taken as a precaution following events in the United States, where groundskeepers, frequently using glyphosate in their work, have been among the successful plaintiffs against Bayer on the grounds that glyphosate has caused their cancer.
Compensation lawyers Maurice Blackburn has publicly outlined via Twitter the potential for an Australian class action against councils and other authorities who do not ' uphold their duty of care' regarding to the use of the product.
However, the Victorian government has said its review is not looking into either the ongoing usage of the product or its safety, but rather a look at internal DELWP usage patterns, applicator safety and exploring if alternative methods can be used instead.
Ms D'Ambrosio said the review was in line with risk management strategies used for all hazardous chemicals.
"DELWP's Safety and Wellbeing team regularly audit sites to ensure risks associated with the use of chemicals, including glyphosate, are being appropriately considered and managed," Ms D'Ambrosio said.
She noted that glyphosate continues to be registered for use in Australia by the Commonwealth's Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and that advice from that agency is that approved products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to the label directions.
The nation's crop protection sector peak body CropLife Australia has come out swinging at the legal firms looking at potential court action on the grounds of glyphosate's safety, labelling them 'ambulance chasers'.
"We cannot allow ambulance chasing litigation law firms and anti-chemical activist groups to warp what is a highly regulated industry that provides products crucial for Australian farmers to deliver safe, disease-free and nutritious food," said CropLife Australia chief executive Matthew Cossey.
"Without pesticides, like glyphosate, we would not have access to nearly enough produce to feed our nation, let alone contribute to feeding the world."
However the news has got the Australian crop protection sector spooked.
Nufarm, which manufactures a number of glyphosate-based products in Australia, issued a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange acknowledging that corporate risk relating to glyphosate had increased in spite of the fact government regulators across the world continue to categorise the product as safe for use.
It said that, as a supplier of glyphosate-based herbicides, it was exposed to the risk of litigation and would continue to monitor the situation.