12 Aug 2018

Minister to ask EPA to consider Roundup on hazardous list

11:18 pm on 12 August 2018

The Environmental Protection Authority will be asked to consider adding the weed-killer Roundup to its list of hazardous substances up for reassessment, Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says.

A federal judge has allowed hundreds of lawsuits accusing a chemical giant of ignoring health risks of its top-selling weed killer Roundup.

Photo: AFP

Chemical giant Monsanto, which makes Roundup, has been ordered to pay $US289 million damages to a Californian man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

In a landmark case, a Californian jury found that Monsanto knew its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers were dangerous and failed to warn consumers.

The Californian claimant, groundsman Dewayne Johnson, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014. His lawyers said he regularly used a form of RangerPro while working at a school in Benicia, California.

He is among more than 5000 similar plaintiffs across the US.

The pharmaceutical group Bayer, the German company which owns Monsanto, denies that herbicides containing glyphosate cause cancer and said it intends to appeal against the verdict.

Bayer completed its $66 billion take-over of Monsanto in June.

A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC the two companies operate independently. In a statement the company said: "Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label."

Ms Sage said in light of the US decision she would be asking the EPA to consider adding Roundup to a list of hazardous substances up for reassessment.

But, it was ultimately the EPA's decision whether the weed-killer was added to the list, she said.

The EPA already had glyphosate on the list of hazardous substances for "chief-executive initiated" reassessment but she would ask EPA to consider adding Roundup as a "proprietary product" - which has other ingredients as well as glyphosate.

Glyphosate is the world's most common weedkiller. The California ruling could lead to hundreds of other claims against Monsanto.

What is glyphosate and is it dangerous?

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. In the US, more than 750 products contain it.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation's cancer agency, concluded that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans".

However, the US Environmental Protection Agency insists it is safe when used carefully.

The European Food Safety Authority also says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Last November 2017 EU countries voted to renew the licence of glyphosate despite campaigns against it.


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