Farmers slam ‘reckless’ glyphosate findings of US court
The active ingredient in the world’s most widely used herbicide, Roundup, is under fire after a landmark court ruling in the US.
Australia’s peak farm advocacy group has condemned the ruling, in which a Californian jury found the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer contributed to a former school gardener developing terminal cancer at age 42, in 2014.
The agribusiness was ordered to pay $396 million to Dewayne Johnson, who is dying of lyphoma and one of thousands of cancer patients suing Monsanto, recently acquired by Bayer.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said the science on the safety of glyphosate was “clear and overwhelming” and the court had set a “reckless precedent”.
“It is concerning such a significant decision has been made in blatant ignorance of the findings of the world’s most authoritative sources on human health,” she said.
“It is used broadly because science has established that it is safe to use.”
Monsanto vigorously rejected the Californian court’s finding and will appeal against the decision.
In a statement, it said the company was sympathetic to former grounds keeper Mr Johnson and his family, but glyphosate was a “safe tool for farmers and others”.
“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 Institute of Health and regulatory authorities around the world including Australia — support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer,” the statement said.
“We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others.”
The active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, was classified “probably carcinogenic” in 2015 by the World Health Organisation, a finding that has been subject to scrutiny and lobbying.
In 2017, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority assessed glyphosate as safe to use if instruction labels were followed.
Both Ms Simson and Mr Young said glyphosate formed a crucial part of Australian farmers’ tool-kit to control invasive weeds in food crops.
“Farmers, like all citizens, care about the safety and health of their families and farm workers,” Ms Simson said.
“No other herbicide has been tested to the lengths that glyphosate has.
“Australian farmers can continue to use glyphosate in accordance with the instructions of the label, knowing it is safe to do so.”
WAFarmers grains section president Duncan Young said the case could serve as a template for other claims.
He said glyphosate was unlikely to ever be banned in Australia.
“Glyphosate is an organic molecule, derived from nature. Unfortunately there is a fair bit of fear and emotive pseudo-science coming into arguments.”
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