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Twitter backlash after Suffolk MP’s ‘weird’ tweet advocating controversial weed killer

PUBLISHED: 08:11 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:18 15 August 2018

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, pictured last year beside a whale made of single-use plastics, has tweeted about Round Up weedkiller. Piicture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, pictured last year beside a whale made of single-use plastics, has tweeted about Round Up weedkiller. Piicture: GREGG BROWN

A Suffolk MP and environment minister has mystified Twitter followers with an unusual comment advocating a controversial weed killer, which has recently been the subject of a high profile cancer court case.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey tweeted a picture of the weed killer, saying “Getting ready to deploy the amazing Round Up.”

The tweet left many of Dr Coffey’s followers confused, while others went so far as to say they were “angered” by her support for a product, which has been criticised for its health risks.

In the US last week, a San Francisco jury has awarded 289 million dollars to a former school groundsman who claimed Round Up contributed to his terminal cancer. Dewayne Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.

The state court jury found its manufacturers Monsanto had failed to adequately warn of the risks of using Roundup.

Twitter user Rick Lopez replied to Dr Coffey’s tweet, saying: “What a weird tweet. A man got cancer from this.”

Monsanto’s lawyer, George Lombardi, opposed the claims made by Mr Johnson, claiming non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma takes years to develop, so Johnson’s cancer must have started before he worked for the district.

The company has denied ties between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal Green Party said it was ‘irresponsible’ for Dr Coffey to endorse the weedkiller and called for her to withdraw her comments.

They said: “The timing is particularly contentious and ill-judged, coming so soon after the lawsuit. There are another 5,000 cases still ongoing in America. We’re calling on Dr Coffey to withdraw her remarks.”

Other Twitter users, replying to Dr Coffey, said that while the evidence about Roundup’s harmful effects on health was not conclusive, it was nevertheless unusual for her to tweet about it.

Ian Wilson tweeted: “There’s some evidence its harmful and some suggesting it isn’t. Which is fine and its still legal to use. But why you would be advocating it so strongly and directly is a bit strange.”

Dr Coffey, who is also parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, faced further criticism over the potential effects of Roundup on the soil and micro organisms.

Several comments questioned whether Dr Coffey’s account had been hacked.

However, she later explained her comments with a further tweet, saying: “Like a lot of chemicals and pesticides, you handle appropriately to manage the risk. Just like you do with bleach and other household chemicals. Roundup is just the same.”

While several people spoke out in agreement with Dr Coffey, others remained critical about the timing of her comments, in light of the recent US court case.

Former Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, whose father held Dr Coffey’s Suffolk Coastal seat before her, simply tweeted: “Er ...”

The post received more than 100 ‘likes’.

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