Safety of Roundup weedkiller defended after US jury ruled that it causes cancer

Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan. Photo: Noel Browne
Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan. Photo: Noel Browne

Margaret Donnelly and Eilish O'Regan

The makers of the weedkiller Roundup have insisted the "science confirmed" that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer.

A spokeswoman for Bayer in Dublin was speaking after a US jury this week found the company's glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller caused cancer.

Eight months ago, another US jury issued the same verdict over similar claims in a different case.

This week's decision in a San Francisco federal court came after five days of deliberation.

The Bayer spokeswoman said glyphosate-based products had been "used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions".

In response to the latest case, Mark Browne, chairman of the grain committee of the Irish Farmers' Association, said: "There is no other product to replace it and it's vital to Irish agriculture. We would have to give up our environmentally friendly practices such as min-till.

Containers of Roundup are displayed on a store shelf in San Francisco. AP Photo
Containers of Roundup are displayed on a store shelf in San Francisco. AP Photo

"Irish farmers don't spray Roundup on crops, we only spray before.

"It has to be science-based, and once the science says it's safe, we have to go by that, we can't go by juries. As long as it's safe, we have to use it and need to use it, and while there is no product to replace it, we will continue to use it.

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"Roundup is classed as one of the safest products we use, and as long as the science backs that up, we're sticking with it. Maybe in time to come, there will be a more environmentally friendly product, but for now, we're sticking with the science."

However, Green Party senator Grace O'Sullivan, a member of the Seanad agricultural panel, called on the Government to inform farmers and other users that there were concerns around the product.

She said there was a potential health risk for farmers, horticulturalists, gardeners and local authority workers who use the product, as well as the general public who, she said, may be exposed to "liberal spraying of Roundup".

"Public health is of real concern to many, and the Government must take action now to protect the citizens of Ireland."

In late 2017, the EU approved Roundup's use for five more years. Emmanuel Macron was forced to drop his plan for a domestic ban by 2021. Ireland voted for the extension.

The Department of Agriculture was unable to provide a response to the case yesterday.

Irish Independent

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