Weedkiller 'portrayed as monster' is vital to our sector, say farmers

The European Chemicals Agency and other regulators around the globe have also found glyphosate not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The European Chemicals Agency and other regulators around the globe have also found glyphosate not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Irish farmers have defended controversial weedkiller glyphosate which they say is wrongly being portrayed as a "monster" and "poison" by people who don't understand agriculture and food production.

On Monday, a Californian jury awarded more than $2bn (€1.8bn) to a couple who claimed Bayer AG's glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer.

This was the third and largest US verdict to date against the company, despite a recent statement from the US Environmental Protection Agency that said that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

France has also signalled that it will phase out the herbicide by the end of 2020. However, Irish tillage farmers have hit out at claims that the weedkiller should be banned and at "mistruths" about the rate and amount of the product they use.

Clive Carter, who is a farmer from Ratheniska, Co Laois, told the 'Farming Independent' that US court case verdicts are often based on "emotion rather than science".

He stated that as long as the EU says glyphosate is safe to use he will continue to use it at the pre sowing stage.

"Farmers are professional users and have all been trained. Farmers are an easy target in this debate, but it's proven by the EU that there's no carcinogenic link," he said.

"Smoking is linked to cancer but it is still legal. It's being portrayed as a monster by people who don't understand farming."

Fellow Ratheniska farmer Colm Fingleton added that only a small amount of glyphosate is used by Irish farmers at pre-sowing stage and said it would be damaging to the sector if usage of the weedkiller was prohibited in the future.

The US Environmental Protection Agency this month reaffirmed that glyphosate was safe to use.

The European Chemicals Agency and other regulators around the globe have also found glyphosate not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, however, concluded in 2015 the chemical probably causes cancer. The chemical was acquired by Bayer as part of its $63bn (€56.2bn) purchase of Monsanto last year.

The German chemicals giant faces more than 13,400 US lawsuits over the herbicide's alleged cancer risk.

In a statement following the latest court case, Bayer said it was disappointed with the verdict and will appeal, adding that the couple had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"The contrast between today's verdict and (US Environmental Protection Agency's) conclusion that there are 'no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate' could not be more stark," Bayer said.

Irish Independent