MOROCCO – In Morocco, the use of glyphosate has come under scrutiny, prompting regulatory bodies and experts to closely monitor its application in agricultural practices.

Glyphosate, a controversial herbicide widely known through products like Bayer’s ‘Roundup,’ has become a topic of heated debate globally, sparking concerns about its potential carcinogenic effects.

The pesticide has been part of Morocco’s agricultural landscape for over two decades. Its applications are diverse, including crops such as citrus fruits, vineyards, and olive trees, as reported by MEDIAS24.

The European Commission granted a five-year approval for glyphosate in 2017 which was to come to an end in 2022.

In considering its reauthorization, EFSA ordered for a peer review of the risk assessment of the pesticide and concluded that there are no critical areas of concern that would prevent the approval or renewal of glyphosate for its proposed uses.

Nonetheless, tension still exists between environmental advocacy groups and regulatory bodies. The environmental groups argue that glyphosate adversely affects the nutritional value of crops, consumer well-being, and the environment. In response, the EC defends its position, proposing the renewal of glyphosate approval under what it deems “strict conditions.”

Despite its presence in the Moroccan market, glyphosate constitutes a minor portion, accounting for only 3.7% of all registered pesticides in the country.

Morocco maintains strict regulatory oversight of pesticides. Approval processes involve rigorous evaluations conducted by phytosanitary engineers.

These evaluations are reviewed by the National Commission for Plant Protection Products, a body comprising multiple departments. The aim is to ensure that all approved pesticides, including glyphosate, adhere to international safety standards.

“Glyphosate is not applied to annual crops such as wheat, lentils, chickpeas and tomatoes. Direct application would in fact induce the destruction of these plants, since this herbicide is non-selective, or even with a generalised action,” Ahmed Jaafari, Head of the Chemical Input Division, ONSSA, told Media24.

Glyphosate application in Moroccan agriculture follows specific protocols. It is applied once annually at the inter-tree level, utilizing atomizers or ramps.

However, glyphosate’s non-selective nature means it can harm unintended plants if not used carefully. To monitor its application, the National Office for Health and Food Safety (ONSSA) dispatches inspectors.

These inspectors target specific farmers, conducting regular inspections. Non-compliance with safety guidelines can result in fines and legal action.

Farmers in Morocco receive awareness campaigns from pesticide vendors. These initiatives emphasize proper agricultural practices and the significance of protective measures during pesticide application.

While the ONSSA conducts regular monitoring, the sheer number of farmers in Morocco (over 3 million) presents a challenge in ensuring comprehensive control. Additionally, the presence of an informal market for pesticides further complicates safety assessments.

Notably, Ahmed states that the country has been following the glyphosate issue closely since 2018 and was among the first countries in the world to re-evaluate glyphosate.

“At the level of the above-mentioned national commission, we have decided, following the publication of the report of the International Centre for Research on Cancer in 2015, to ban 24 commercial products containing glyphosate associated with the co-formulating POE- Tallowamine,” he said.

“After studying the available data, we had then come to the conclusion that this association may pose a risk; this co-formulent indeed increases the toxicity of glyphosate,’ explains Ahmed Jaafari, pointing out that the same combination is still used in several countries.”

International involvement

Commenting on the global controversy over glyphosate, Ahmed Jaafari said that ONSSA keeps an eye on the issue, both nationally and internationally.

“Morocco has ratified two important conventions on chemicals in general: the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides.

“Pesticides classified as hazardous after assessment are annexed to these conventions. Glyphosate has not so far been included in any of the lists annexed to the Conventions. All pesticides listed in the annexes have been banned by ONSSA,” the expert concluded.

For all the latest fresh produce industry news updates from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.