France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden have agreed to take over from Germany as the lead countries responsible for assessing the safety of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, politico.eu reported. Meanwhile, a second court case in the U.S. has resulted in a ruling that the weedkiller causes cancer.
The European Commission announced that the four countries will form part of an entity dubbed the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG) in an update to its website. National health experts still need to formally endorse the decision with a vote inside the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee).
The debate about whether glyphosate causes cancer wages on in Europe, despite a vote in late 2017 to renew the herbicide’s license in the EU for another five years. The decision passed thanks to a last-minute U-turn by Germany, whose agriculture minister took his own line rather than the government’s and ordered a vote in favor of renewing, rather than abstaining.
France, whose food safety authority will be partly in charge of assessing glyphosate, is proactively attempting to ease farmers off using the substance as a way to improve the environment.
The decision to use four countries was made because no single country volunteered to take on the role alone, the Commission said, adding that scientific work will be carried out by their respective national agencies from 2020 onward, politico.eu added.
Today, the BBC reports that a U.S. jury has found that the weedkiller was a "substantial factor" in causing a manʼs cancer.
Pharmaceutical group Bayer had strongly rejected claims that its glyphosate-based Roundup product was carcinogenic, but the jury in San Francisco ruled unanimously that it contributed to causing non-Hodgkinʼs lymphoma in a California resident. The next stage of the trial will consider Bayerʼs liability and damages, the BBC added.
In morning trading, Bayerʼs shares immediately plunged, dropping almost 12%. The German company acquired Roundup as part of its USD 63 bln takeover of U.S. rival Monsanto, the report recalled.
The case was the second Roundup-related lawsuit to go to trial in the U.S., after another California resident was awarded USD 289 mln last August, although this was reduced to USD 78 mln and is on appeal.
Bayer has argued that decades of studies and regulatory assessments have shown the weedkiller to be safe for human use, the BBC noted.
The report recalled that in 2015, the World Health Organizationʼs International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans." However, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said it is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.