It looks like, at last, Roundup is on its way out of the US.
At least… the version of it that’s on the shelves right now.
More than a dozen studies have found a link between lymphoma and glyphosate and links to male infertility. Others have found it harmful to wildlife, causing erratic honeybee behavior and dwindling biodiversity in marine habitats.
In response to billions of dollars worth of lawsuits and settlements, Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, recently announced that it would change the formula of the popular herbicide for lawn and garden care in 2023. The decision was motivated by questions around glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, and whether it causes cancer in humans and harms wildlife.
From the 1970s on, Roundup has been sold as an agricultural weedkiller by the biotechnology company Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), making it the most heavily used weedkiller in history. In 2019, the EPA estimated about 280 million pounds of glyphosate are applied to an average of 298 million acres of cropland annually. Since the weedkiller was discovered, more than nine billion tons of the chemical have been used worldwide for crops and gardens. Nearly 20% of that share comes from the US!
In a statement that accompanied the announcement, Bayer wrote that “this move is being made exclusively to manage litigation risk and not because of any safety concerns.”And just last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a report saying that “there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used in accordance to its current label.”
But a 2015 review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there was “strong evidence of genotoxicity”, or DNA damage, from the agent—and limited evidence of carcinogenicity.
In the same statement that said it would phase out glyphosate for residential use, Bayer stated that it would appeal a 2016 cancer lawsuit by a school groundskeeper in California up to the Supreme Court. Most of the other individuals who’ve sued Monsanto and Bayer over Roundup have been farmers.
Many countries, including India, Australia, and Germany, have banned or set a timeline to phase out glyphosate-based herbicides. Some US cities have done the same, but there are no federal mandates in place yet.
Perhaps this will be the kick in the pants they need.