Glyphosate on trial: Courts, markets, and public opinion

Glyphosate, the generic chemical name for Monsanto’s RoundUp, is taking fire from all angles, it seems, after courts in two different countries recently delivered significant blows to the herbicide’s reputation.

Last week, a judge in Brazil ordered a halt on all approvals of any products containing glyphosate, plus a suspension of existing registration within in 30 days, pending a toxicology review. Not surprisingly, both an industry group and even the Ministry of Agriculture quickly announced it would be appealing the decision, Reuters reports.

Then, on Friday, a California jury awarded Dewayne Johnson US$289 million in damages relating to cancer that he claims was caused by exposure to glyphosate in Roundup. The jury deliberated for three days before finding Monsanto liable — a decision that could potentially impact thousands of other cases across the U.S.

Monsanto immediately said it will appeal the California court ruling.

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews — and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. 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,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy. “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 Californian and Brazilian cases are just the latest strikes against the widely-used, non-selective herbicide. Several end-use markets for Canadian crops have been either tightening specs or all-out negating its use when applied pre-harvest. For example:

The ramifications for glyphosate alone are significant — but the much larger question becomes, what happens to all plant protection products if the regulatory system is trumped by the court system and the court of public opinion?

The stock market is certainly paying close attention, as shares of Bayer, which recently completed its acquisition of Monsanto, and Nufarm tumbled Monday, as concerns about court payouts and what this all means for agriculture started making its way through business channels.

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One Comment

old dog

I wonder where all the health problems are coming from?? The problem started many years ago when academics and government officials went down the chemical route rather than working with and understanding how the soil functions . Sorry folks we humans have got ourselves into a pickle and more man made chemicals ARE not going to solve our problems!!

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