Battle to ban Roundup: Government rows back on banning chemical used in growing food crops

The Department of Agriculture had decided to halt use of glyphosate on food crops pending review, in line with Brussels. Why the change of heart, asks Caroline O’Doherty.

THE local authority official from Ballaghaderreen wrote to the Department of Agriculture to advise that regional councilors had voted to call for a ban on the use of a controversial chemical, but what he got back was a lecture on semantics.

Denis Kelly, acting director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, fell foul of the department’s linguistic police by using the term ‘weedkiller’ in his letter.

“Your note refers to the term ‘weed killer’ which is not an accurate or indeed a helpful descriptor of the type of PPP [plant protection product],” came the reply.

“In fact the term only invokes an immediate negative and emotive response. Consequently, we refer to such products as “desiccants” and/or “herbicides” which merely mean that they are used to eradicate or destroy unwanted vegetation.”

So that was Mr Kelly put in his place. Whatever about the ban on the use of the chemical, he was banned from calling it a weedkiller.

The plant protection product, desiccant, herbicide or, to be mischievous, weedkiller, in question was glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, one of the most familiar chemical sprays you’ll see in your local garden center and one of the most commonly used by farmers around the world.