Toxic chemicals threaten the quality of drinking water in the Netherlands

Toxic chemicals threaten the quality of drinking water in the Netherlands

According to a report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), the wide use of toxic chemicals by farmers is putting the quality of drinking water in the Netherlands at risk!

Chemicals in drinking water

In 2013, the government stipulated in a memorandum that farmers would cut down their use of agricultural toxins and that the quality of drinking water would improve. However, it doesn’t look like much has been done. The PBL reports that high levels of toxins are still too often found in ground and surface water.

The chemical to watch out for? Glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in the infamous Roundup, a herbicide that is used by many farmers. Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are used to kill weeds and grasses that compete with crops. The GBH does not kill the crop, as these are genetically engineered to be glyphosate-resistant. GBH is only effective on actively growing plants, as it is absorbed through the leaves and only minimally through the roots. This means it can only kill existing weeds, rather than preventing new ones from growing.

In America, there are thousands of lawsuits still pending against the developer of Roundup, Bayer-Monsato, as the agricultural toxin is alleged to cause cancer. In the Netherlands, readings show that “glyphosate is still the main problem substance for the abstraction of drinking water”, reveals PBL researcher Aaldrik Tiktak. The PBL believes that the use of glyphosate in agriculture is illegitimate, as there are alternatives.

Why is glyphosate not banned?

Well, it’s not for lack of trying. Coalition party D66 wants a partial ban, but the Cabinet doesn’t want to go there yet. The Minister for Agriculture, Carola Schouten, wants to decrease the use of the toxin but feels a ban is a step too far. So, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be banned in the near future. In fact, at the end of 2017, the European Union decided to allow the use of glyphosate for another five years.

Agricultural toxins are cheaper than alternative substances and, according to Tiktak; “farmers report that they often work better than alternatives which don’t contain toxins”. This is probably why the chemical is still being used.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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Alex Shmatko 12:00 | 30 June 2019

A bit more on the research of glyphosate - In short - there is close to zero evidence that glyphosate can cause cancer as well as glyphosate is mostly filtered out from water by using sand filters.