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Austria is the first country to ban glyphosate on Wednesday, a substance used for the manufacture of Roundup, a popular weed killer manufactured by Monsanto.
Glyphosate has been linked to cancer. A 2015 report published by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that the substance is “probably carcinogenic” to humans. A 2019 study published by the University of Washington links glyphosates with a 41% increase in cancer risk, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Monsanto has always questioned the WHO report and all subsequent findings. The company produces the Roundup weed-killer since 1974.
“It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment,” said the leader of Austria’s Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who brought the bill to parliament on Tuesday.
The bill needs to be ratified by Austria’s upper chamber, the Federal Council, next week. If it is, then the law would take effect on January 1, 2020.
However, the law could be contested by Monsanto, as neither the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) nor the European Chemicals Agency classify glyphosate as carcinogenic. Regulators have cleared the chemical for use in the EU until December 2022. A hint that Bayer, the owner of Monsanto, will exhaust all legislative instruments was made clear on Tuesday when the company issued a statement expressing the hope that the European Commission would intervene.
Bayer warns that farmers need glyphosate to sustainably manage weeds with low energy consumption, as the use of the chemical saves farmers from tillage (ploughing).
In the US, over 13,000 cancer patients have sued Monsanto, and the company is losing court case after court case. Recently, the company was ordered to pay €1.8 bn in California with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Nonetheless, the US Environmental Protection Agency said in May that glyphosate poses no risk to public health. Also in May, the US Secretary for Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, defended the use of the chemical substance on the grounds of efficiency.