With term “Pesticides” are identified all the substances used to control, remove or permanently eliminate several type of plants, insects, fungi and animals. This group includes various types of chemicals which perform different functions, such as: insecticides, herbicides, repellents and larvicides.
Herbicides (or weedkillers) are used to destroy weeds and prevent their new growth. They are used in agriculture and horticulture to fight competing-crops weeds, or used as road and industrials areas weed-cleaners. Herbicides can be total, when they can remove any kind of plant, or selective, when they remove only certain specific species. In recent years, biological alternatives have been tried to be adopted to achieve the same effect. Molecules contained in herbicides, indeed, are able to cause serious environmental damages in case of a massive and uncontrolled use.
Glyphosate is an active substance widely used in pesticides. Its use is widespread, due to its effectiveness and lower toxicity compared to similar products available when it was launched on the market about five decades ago by Monsanto multinational with the commercial name of “RoundUp”. Nowadays, its toxicity on animals and humans consuming food treated with this substance is still controversial.
A study performed administering glyphosate in rats seemed to prove its carcinogenicity. However, the paper published in 2012 was retracted at a later time due to methodological problems and data have never been replicated in higher impact studies.
Afterwards, the IARC of Lyon classified glyphosate as probable carcinogen, inserting it in 2 A group. In 2018, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) completed the re-examination of glyphosate maximum level legally allowed in food. The procedure concluded that there is no risk for human health at current exposition levels. The evaluation has examined all the available information about glyphosate presence in feed, including imported ones, concluding that no harmful glyphosate effects on bovine, sheep, pigs, horses and chickens health were found. Similar opinions have been expressed by WHO and FAO, indeed they conclude that it is improbable that glyphosate carries a concrete risk of human cancer followed by a nutritional exposure.
In this unclear context, in 2016 an Italian decree from Ministry of Health established that the herbicide will cannot be used anymore in “frequented by population or vulnerable groups [areas] such as parks, gardens, sport fields and recreational areas, children play areas, courtyards and green areas inside school complexes and sanitary buildings.
Later, an additional decree established that products containing polyethoxylated tallow amine coupled with glyphosate were withdrawn from the market and their final user employment was prohibited starting from the end of February 2017.