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Picking wild berries in forest cutblocks may not be a good idea: UNBC study

New research warns wild berries unfit for human consumption
Several forestry companies undertake spraying of the glyphosate herbicide to logged areas after seedlings are replanted. (Doug Pitt/Natural Resources Canada/Black Press Media file photo)

A newly released study has determined that wild berry picking in forest cutblocks of Central and Northern Interior regions of the province might not be a good idea.

The study, conducted by the team of University of Northern BC scientists, N. Botten, L.J. Wood, and J.R. Werner, concludes that wild berry picking could be detrimental to the health of not just humans but animals who consume these berries especially those sprayed with the weed-killer glyphosate.

According to the study, once sprayed, glyphosate persists in plant tissues for a minimum of one year after treatment, and in some cases still remains in trace amounts after twelve or more years.

The study also determined that while the quantities of glyphosate contained in plant tissues after three to twelve years are extremely low and the lower levels should not be considered an immediate hazard, however, “the cumulative effects of long-term residual glyphosate should be considered when assessing exposure of humans and wildlife to chronic, low-concentrations of glyphosate and other chemicals in the environment”.

A similar study was conducted in 2019 and published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research by Lisa J. Wood.

Also Read: UNBC professor receives prestigious conservation award

Despite the studies, Glyphosate continues to be approved by Health Canada for use in forestry across the country, with strict conditions including buffer zones for fish-bearing streams.

Several forestry companies helicopter-spray and manually brush over 10,000 hectares of forests in the province with glyphosate since the 1980’s to kill birch, aspen trees and as a post-harvest, silvicultural treatment.

Last year, around 50 people gathered outside the Ministry of Forests District office in Prince George to protest spraying herbicides on B.C. forests by Canfor. The rally was organized in light of Canfor’s impending renewal of pest management plan that designates high-biodiversity, fire-resistant native tree species including birch, cottonwood and aspen as pests and would mean spraying those trees with the herbicide.

The company Bayer that makes the weed and grass killed Roundup containing glyphosate, has been subject to a number of lawsuits all over Canada and the U.S after the International Agency for Research on Cancer scientists classified glyphosate as a probably carcinogenic substance to humans in 2015. Last year, Bayer even agreed to over US $10 billion to resolve lawsuits in U.S. This however, won’t apply to Canadian lawsuits.

The conclusions of the latest study points to the urgent attention that needs to be given to the use and indirect consumption of glyphosates.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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Priyanka Ketkar

About the Author: Priyanka Ketkar

Priyanka Ketkar has been a journalist since 2011 with extensive experience in community-driven news writing, feature writing, and editing.
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