Will the controversy over glyphosate (aka weedkiller Roundup to most of us) never end?
Bayer, the German chemical giant who purchased Monsanto (conceiver of Roundup), has agreed to a $10 billion-plus settlement to resolve around 95,000 health claims involving cancer, while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety.
Plaintiffs in these cases allege that glyphosate, the herbicide that is Roundup’s key ingredient, causes cancer. Bayer, like Monsanto before it, has maintained that the weedkiller is safe.
The HB Regional Council uses glyphosate “in accordance with regulations set forth by the EPA.” And advises its use in various ‘how to’ publications, such as this one dealing with planting poplar and willow poles.
Responding to submissions opposing use of this weedkiller, HBRC has written:
“While HBRC acknowledges that that there is debate about spraying using chemicals, we point out that HBRC ratepayers wish to continue to maintain infrastructure to specific levels of service, cost effectively. Glyphosate remains an essential tool in the armoury to combat weeds generally, but more importantly is sometimes the only tool available to combat invasive plant pests.”
The NY Times provides this excellent account of the situation and the debate around the product.
According to the Times, part of the settlement funds will be used to establish an independent expert panel to resolve two critical questions about glyphosate: Does it cause cancer, and if so, what is the minimum dosage or exposure level that is dangerous?
If the panel concludes that glyphosate is a carcinogen, Bayer will not be able to argue otherwise in future cases — and if the experts reach the opposite conclusion, the class action’s lawyers will be similarly bound.
In reaching the settlement, Bayer did not admit liability or wrongdoing. Under the terms reported, Roundup will continue to be sold for use in backyards and farms without any safety warning.
So, not quite end of the trail yet!