Austria on the Verge of Becoming First EU Country to Ban Controversial Roundup Herbicide

Illustration for article titled Austria on the Verge of Becoming First EU Country to Ban Controversial Roundup Herbicide

A popular herbicide currently in use worldwide, but controversially linked to cancer, is on the verge of being outlawed in Austria—the first European Union country to attempt an outright ban.

Citing what the leader of the country’s Social Democratic party, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, called increasing “scientific evidence,” Austria’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill banning the use of the weedkiller glyphosate, more commonly known by the brand name Roundup.

The Austrian bill faces little opposition in the parliament’s upper house and is likely to be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen, Reuters reported. However, the country’s sustainability and tourism ministry has suggested the bill might nevertheless be illegal under EU law, since glyphosate has already been cleared for use in the bloc until December 2022.

Advertisement

Roundup was developed in the 1970s by the Monstanto Company, which has long defended the product against allegations of toxicity at normal levels of exposure. But in 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, classified glyphosate-based herbicides as “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on studies conducted in animals and cell cultures. 

While organization has faced backlash over its stance, its findings have been used nonetheless in successful lawsuits against Monsanto. In May, a California Superior Court jury awarded an astounding $2 billion to a couple in Alameda County who claimed RoundUp caused their their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, is appealing the ruling and, regardless, the final damages are likely to be significantly reduced.)

Similarly in March, a federal jury in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay $80 million to a California man with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Around 11,000 similar cases are pending at the federal or state level, CNN reported at the time.

Advertisement

In 2017, a long-term collaborative project of the National Cancer Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other independent health groups in the United States, known as the Agricultural Health Study, found no links between RoundUp and “any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies overall, including non-Hogkin Lymphoma (NHL) and its subtypes.”

In 2017, an investigation by three Bloomberg reporters found that Monsanto had paid a consulting firm that had edited drafts of a supposedly independent study that determined the herbicide was safe. Bloomberg cited internal emails, released as part of a lawsuit, to demonstrate the company’s strong involvement in the paper.

Advertisement

Monsanto denied any wrongdoing, claiming that while it had paid the firm, Intertek Group Plc, the researchers themselves were not directly contacted by the company.

[Reuters]

Advertisement

Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`

DISCUSSION

dnapl
Dense non aqueous phase liquid

I’m guessing Austria doesn’t need Roundup (glyphosate) since it opted out of Roundup ready (GE) seeds a while back.

From USDA Foreign Agriculture Services:

Austria: Agricultural Biotechnology Annual- 2017

Austria continues to be one of the leading forces within Europe opposed to the use of biotechnology in agriculture. Austrian politicians, governmental decision makers, farmer organizations, and consumers share the opinion that agricultural biotechnology carries incalculable risks.

Austrian legislation successfully prohibits the cultivation of GE crops. Austria has adopted the so-called “opt-out” EU legislation to restrict or ban the cultivation of GE plants on its territory.

Austria’s anti-biotech sentiment has effectively kept labeled biotech foods off the shelves in supermarkets and grocery stores. The Austrian retail sector refrains from stocking or selling foods containing ingredients that require GE labeling. Anti-biotech NGOs and farmer’s organizations, the food-processing sector, and the retail sector all have steady marketing campaigns promoting GE-free foods.

Despite this widespread opposition towards GE products, the Austrian animal sector is highly dependent on imports of soybean meal. A large majority of the 600,000 metric tons of soybean meal used in Austria is GE. Soybeans and soybean meal is currently the only major agricultural biotech commodity found on the Austrian market.

Oh snap. (last paragraph)