The European Union’s European Commission has renewed its authorization for glyphosate, a weed killer that the World Health Organization has labeled “probably carcinogenic,” according to Reuters.
The Commission renewed the approved use of the herbicide claiming in a statement “Today, Member States did not reach the required qualified majority to renew or reject the approval of glyphosate during a vote at the Appeal Committee.”
The failure to reach a decisive majority led to the EU deciding to renew the product’s authorization ahead of a December 15, 2023 deadline, at which point it’s previous approval would have expired. The newly extended renewal is slated to last ten years.
The renewal comes despite not only the warnings from the World Health Organization, but also objections from numerous European Union Member States expressed during an October meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCPAFF).
Germany, for example, claimed they had already banned the use of many herbicides containing glyphosate, and noted that “glyphosate has a systemic effect, i.e. when absorbed through the leaves it gets into all parts of the plant and causes the death of the plants.”
Neighboring Netherlands also noted the links between glyphosate and Parkinson’s disease, writing “on scientific level, there have been several studies showing associations between the exposure to glyphosate and the development of Parkinson’s disease.” They also noted concerns about biodiversity, leading to “an adopted resolution in the Dutch Parliament to vote against a renewal of glyphosate.”
The link between glyphosate and Parkinson’s is one environmental activist and current Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been vocally drawing attention to for years.
Kennedy was the lead lawyer in a landmark case against Monsanto, a chemical producer and owner of a glyphosate-containing weed killer called RoundUp.
DeWayne Johnson, a school caretaker who had been doused in one of Monsanto’s weed killers, sued them after he developed terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A jury found Monsanto liable and awarded Johnson $289 million in damages in 2018, but that figure was reduced to merely $20 million upon appeal, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Monsanto, who have since been bought by pharmagiant Bayer, has settled over 100,000 glyphosate related lawsuits to date, paying out in excess of over $11 billion as of May 2022, according to Forbes.
One lawyer responsible for a multidistrict litigation against Bayer/Monsanto, Robin Greenwald, told the CBC “I would say 80 per cent of our clients say, ‘I just want the public to know so nobody ends up using this product without knowing that it can cause illness, and that if they’re going to use it still, they should protect themselves.'”
And yet there are still many who refute the claim. Despite the WHO’s “possibly carcinogenic” label, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still lists glyphosate as non-carcinogenic. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals even lobbied the EPA to reconsider this position in the opinion of a decision on a 2022 RoundUp case.
So where does that leave us visa vi glyphosate? In this weird quasi liminal realm of “yes it causes cancer but also kind of not really but maybe idk so lets just use it for another 10 years and see what happens”?
In doing research for this piece I came across numerous doctors and online health experts who denigrated some of RFK Jr.’s claims on glyphosate as “conspiracies,” the sum total of their arguments seemingly amounting to “the studies he’s citing aren’t rigorous enough.
Hmm… shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the chemical producers in this instance though?
I’m not a public health expert or a chemical expert or a legal expert or an agricultural expert… but if there’s even a chance this product, which is the most widely used pesticide on the planet, causes cancer, shouldn’t we shut it down until we know more?
Every single EU country that logged an opinion in the October SCPAFF meeting noted the need for more research. France banned the compound for household use but continues to allow it to be used on an industrial scale. French investigative journalist Marie Monique-Robin called it “the most toxic product ever invented by man,” and yet, if you’ve eaten today, it’s likely coursing through your system right now.