Austria to Vote on Outright Ban on Roundup Weed Killer

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Man spraying weed killer on grass

The Austrian parliament is set to vote July 2 on banning the use of glyphosate-based pesticides anywhere in the country. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup herbicide, one of the most widely used pesticides in the world.

While other European countries have promised to phase out glyphosate or have already restricted its use, Austria could become the first country on the continent to completely ban the controversial weed killer everywhere within its borders.

Roundup has been in regulators’ cross hairs around the world since the United Nation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has not found a similar connection between glyphosate and cancer. But three Roundup lawsuits in the United States have ended in multimillion dollar awards for people who claimed exposure to glyphosate in Roundup caused their cancer.

Roundup Use Already Limited in More Than 24 Countries and 60 United States Localities

Bans or restrictions on glyphosate-based pesticides are already in place in more than two dozen countries worldwide. Some countries have banned commercial and private use but have allowed governments to continue spraying the pesticide.

Local governments in other countries have also enacted bans within their jurisdictions. Major retailers in some countries have stopped selling glyphosate products.

France and Vietnam have promised to remove glyphosate products at some point in the future. And at least six European Union countries have called on commissioners to develop an exit strategy for eliminating glyphosate use.

Sri Lanka and El Salvador enacted total bans on Roundup and other glyphosate pesticides but rescinded them shortly afterward.

As of September 2018, the consumer advocacy organization Environmental Working Group had found at least 58 local ordinances banning or restricting glyphosate use in cities or counties around the United States. Since then, two large communities have added new bans on the herbicide’s use.

Miami banned city workers and contractors from using glyphosate in February 2019. That ban went into effect immediately. Los Angeles County supervisors voted in March 2019 to stop all use of Roundup on county property until the county can gather more research on possible health and environmental effects.

Bayer insists that Roundup is safe and that there is no proof that it is linked to cancer.

“There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, which confirms these products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” Bayer says on its website.

Roundup Lawsuits Cost Bayer More Than $2 Billion

Bayer faces more than 13,000 lawsuits in the United States from people claiming Roundup exposure caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system.

More than 74,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year and nearly 20,000 die from it. Juries have awarded $2.369 to four people who claim Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The first Roundup lawsuit in August 2018 resulted in a $289 million jury verdict in favor of a California school groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of Roundup use.

In March 2019, another California jury awarded an $80 million Roundup verdict to a man who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using the herbicide on his property for 30 years.

A third California jury awarded $2 billion to a couple who developed the cancer after they used Roundup on their property for more than three decades. Bayer is appealing all three verdicts.

At least two more Roundup trials are planned for August or September 2019. One trial will be part of a federal litigation that combines more than 1,000 lawsuits.

Diagnosed with cancer after exposure to Roundup? Get a Free Case Review

Bayer Moves Forward with New Generation Pesticide

Bayer announced in June 2019 that it would spend more than $5.6 billion researching new weed killers with reduced environmental impacts. It also promised to reduce its environmental footprint by 2030. It even ran a full-page ad in The Washington Post saying, “We listened, we learned.”

But at the same time, Bayer said “glyphosate will continue to play an important role” in Bayer’s business.

The string of lawsuit losses and talk of glyphosate bans have been costly for Bayer. The company acquired Roundup’s original manufacturer, Monsanto, in 2018 for $62.5 billion. Bayer’s lost more than 44 percent of its value since the merger.

“There are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the United States.”

If Austria votes to ban glyphosate outright, it could compound Bayer’s problems. Political analysts in the European Union predict the vote could ramp up pressure on Germany and France to follow suit with bans. Both countries have focused so far on phasing out the weed killer over time.

If that happens, it could be the start of a domino effect within the European Union to restrict the herbicide across the continent. The European Union relicensed glyphosate in 2017. But it required renewals every five years and allowed member states to issue limited restrictions on its use.

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Terry Turner
Written By Terry Turner Writer

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 25 years. He covers FDA policy, proton pump inhibitors, and medical devices such as hernia mesh, IVC filters, and hip and knee implants. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Some of his qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in Washington Examiner, MedPage Today and The New York Times
  • Appeared as an expert panelist on hernia mesh lawsuits on the BBC
Edited By

12 Cited Research Articles

  1. Bayer. (2019, June 10). Glyphosate’s Impact on Human Health and Safety. Retrieved from https://www.bayer.com/en/glyphosate-impact-on-human-health-and-safety.aspx
  2. Cone, M. (2019, April 4). Popular Weed Killer’s Alleged Link to Cancer Spreads Concern. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/popular-weed-killers-alleged-link-to-cancer-spreads-concern/
  3. Environmental Working Group. (2018, September 5). Local Limits on Spraying Monsanto’s Toxic Weed Killer in Parks, Playgrounds and Schoolyards Blocked by House Republican Farm Bill. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/release/house-gop-seeks-scuttle-playground-bans-glyphosate
  4. Environmental Working Group. (2019, March 21). LA County Bans Use of Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer on County Property Over Health Concerns. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/release/la-county-bans-use-monsanto-s-roundup-weedkiller-over-health-concerns
  5. Lipscomb, J. (2019, March 1). Miami Bans Controversial Herbicides that Are Killing Biscayne Bay. Miami New Times. Retrieved from https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/city-of-miami-bans-use-of-herbicides-containing-glyphosate-11100953
  6. Meyer, D. (2019, May 14). Bayer Has Now Lost Over 44% of Its Value Since Its Monsanto Merger. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2019/05/14/bayer-stock-monsanto-verdict/
  7. National Pesticide Information Center. (2019, March). Glyphosate; General Fact Sheet. Oregon State University. Retrieved from http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html
  8. Nelsen, A., Schlee, M., and Mischke, J. (2019, June 12). Austria Reignites Europe’s Weed Killer War. Politico EU. Retrieved from https://www.politico.eu/article/austria-europe-glyphosate-war/
  9. Reuters. (2019, May 14). Factbox: More Roundup Trials, Appeals in Store for Bayer After $2 Billion Verdict. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bayer-glyphosate-lawsuit-trials-factb/factbox-more-roundup-trials-appeals-in-store-for-bayer-after-2-billion-verdict-idUSKCN1SK24E
  10. Scipioni, J. (2019, May 14). Bayer Now Facing 13,400 Lawsuits Over Roundup Cancer Risk After Three Jury Losses. Fox Business. Retrieved from https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/roundup-bayer-13400-lawsuits
  11. Siegel, R. (2019, June 14). Roundup Is Embroiled in Cancer Cases. Now Its Maker Is Putting $5.6 Billion Toward a New Kind of Week Killer. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/06/14/roundup-is-embroiled-cancer-cases-now-its-maker-is-putting-billion-toward-new-kind-weed-killer/?utm_term=.8715604e1592
  12. Smith-Schoenwalder, C. (2019, March 22). Los Angeles Country Bans Use of Roundup Weed Killer. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-03-22/los-angeles-county-bans-use-of-roundup-weed-killer
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