Retailers say they are continuing to review the latest information on glyphosate following a request from lobby group the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) to withdraw products based on the active ingredient.
PAN wrote to B&Q, Homebase, Dobbies, Notcutts, Wilko, Wickes and all main supermarkets last month to request a ban after some studies linked the herbicide to cancer (HW, 24 July).
Should the retailers decide to take no action, PAN policy officer Nick Mole plans to "set about mobilising the public" through a social media campaign, citing West Six and North One Garden Centres' removal of glyphosate products after criticism on social media.
A Notcutts representative said: "'Please be assured that we take consumer health and safety very seriously. We are absolutely committed to selling safe and responsibly sourced products, and only those that are approved for sale and use, which is why we take guidance from regulatory bodies such as the Health & Safety Executive.
"We are concerned when the safety of any of our products is called into question and in these rare instances always ensure we work closely with suppliers at all stages of an investigation to stay as fully updated as possible so we can update and reassure our customers. Scotts Miracle-Gro is our supplier of Roundup. We are committed to monitoring the situation and we are absolutely committed to selling safe, approved products.'"
A spokesperson for Homebase said: "All pesticides we sell fully comply with EU legislation, where there is a very rigid testing and approvals programme for any garden chemicals, including any potential risks to bystanders, those applying it and the environment.
"When using any garden products you should always follow the instructions on the label. Homebase continues to be guided by Defra on such products, taking any responsible action with regard to ranges as directed."
A B&Q representative said: "PAN has addressed the letter to our parent company, Kingfisher, which received the letter at the end of last week and will respond in due course having given the letter full consideration."
A Dobbies spokesperson said the chain is currently looking into the latest information on glyphosate.
The Crop Protection Association, under the name Common Sense Gardening Group, has issued glyphosate advice to garden centres.
Monsanto business director Gary Philpotts said the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment - the EU member state "rapporteur" for the glyphosate renewal process - reported glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk. "My message to UK retailers is it is safe to use in your garden and approved across Europe and pretty much the whole world," he added. Products such as Weedol, Roundup and Resolva provide a "safe and effective solution on the shelf" and the issue is about "responsible use", he insisted.
Monograph - Confusion still clouds issue
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has published the report monograph on glyphosate that calssified the herbicide as "probably carinogenic", but industry bodies have responded by saying it does not clear up the confusion caused by the classification.
Trade association CropLife International said the IARC evaluates cancer hazards but it is the job of regulators to conduct risk assessments.
"Calls for regulatory action on crop-protection products such as glyphosate, based on IARC's hazard identification, are therefore unfounded," said CropLife International president and chief executive officer Howard Minigh. Risk assessments by regulatory agencies around the world remain valid in the absence of new information, he added.
The Joint Glyphosate Task Force - a consortium of companies - also issued a statement, saying: "While the full monograph might be 92 pages long, it doesn't contain any new studies or data and it certainly doesn't clear up the confusion this inconsistent classification has caused."
It claims the IARC selectively disregarded scientific studies that support regulatory agencies' conclusions that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
"Unfortunately, IARC's selective disregard of scientific data and vastly inconsistent classification have resulted in unnecessary concern and confusion. For that reason, we reiterate our call on the WHO to clarify how IARC arrived at its conclusion."