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Europe’s concerns over glyphosate heightened by US ruling

German environment ministry wants imminent action to ban glyphosate use, UK retailers consider removing products from shelves

This article is powered by EU Food Law

A ruling by a US court that found Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller caused a school groundsman’s cancer has triggered the German government and retailers in the UK to consider action to restrict the controversial active substance.

UK retailer Homebase has said it would consider removing the glyphosate-based product Roundup from its shelves following the ruling by the US Superior Court of California in San Francisco.

Another British retailer, B&Q, has said that it would continue to review garden products in light of safety concerns that have been raised about them, noting that it has been ahead of legislative action before, in particular when it removed neonicotinoids before the EU member states' decision to ban them.

In Germany, a spokesman for the German environment ministry told news agency Reuters today (August 13th) that use of glyphosate-based weedkillers should be halted during the current legislative period, which ends in three years.

The ministry was responding to today’s US ruling, which triggered a fall in the share price of German agrochemical company Bayer which was acquired by Monsanto this year for $63 billion.

Monsanto hit with massive fine

In the US ruling, Monsanto was found liable in a lawsuit filed by 46-year-old school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson who alleged that the company's glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, caused him cancer.

The jury deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto’s failure to warn was a substantial factor in causing harm to Mr Johnson. This was the first lawsuit alleging that glyphosate causes cancer to go to trial. There are reportedly over 4,000 similar cases awaiting trial in various state courts.

Monsanto says that it will appeal the decision and will continue to vigorously defend this product, which it adds has a 40-year history of safe use.

“Today's decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews - and conclusions by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world - support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson's cancer,” the company adds.

Mr Johnson’s lawsuit was based on findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is part of the UN’s World Health Organisation. IARC said that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup and the world’s most used weedkiller, was a probable carcinogen.

However, the European Commission has extended glyphosate’s licence for another five years. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that current exposure to glyphosate is not a risk to human health.


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