Bayer to phase out Roundup due to cancer lawsuits
Homeowners in the United States will soon have to find another way to control weeds than Roundup.
Bayer recently announced that it will begin replacing the popular lawn and garden care herbicide in 2023. The decision was prompted by questions about glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, and whether it causes cancer in humans and harms wildlife.
The pharmaceutical and chemical company faces tens of thousands of lawsuits and billions of dollars in claims alleging health and environmental negligence due to the use of glyphosate.
Roundup was first sold as an agricultural weedkiller in the 1970s by biotech company Monsanto (now owned by Bayer). Since then, more than 19 million pounds have been sprayed by farmers, landscapers and gardeners around the world. Almost 20% of this share comes from the United States.
Glyphosate, the acidic formula that makes Roundup so effective, is widely used in pest control agents today. While the compound itself is considered non-toxic to humans, it has the potential to be carcinogenic when mixed with other herbicidal ingredients. Over the past two decades, dozens of studies have linked exposure to glyphosate and Roundup to higher risks of lymphoma in humans and animals. Others have found links to male infertility, erratic honey bee behavior, and decreased biodiversity in marine habitats.
[Related: Pesticides might be worse for bees than we thought]
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Bayer wrote that “this decision is made exclusively to manage the risk of litigation and not for security reasons.” Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a report stating that “there is no risk to human health when glyphosate is used according 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, of the agent and limited evidence of carcinogenicity.
In the same statement where he said he would phase out Roundup for residential use, Bayer said he would appeal a 2016 cancer lawsuit brought by a gardener at a school in California to ‘to the Supreme Court. Most of the other people who sued Monsantor and Bayer over glyphosate were farmers.
In the 1990s, Monsanto began selling special strains of soybeans and other crops genetically modified to resist herbicides. Some experts say this has encouraged more indiscriminate spraying of Roundup over the years. A handful of countries, including Vietnam, Mexico and Germany, have either banned or set a timeline for the phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides. Some American cities have done the same, but there is no federal legislation on the table yet.