The future of commonly-used weedkiller glyphosate is less certain following a court ruling in the USA which ordered one of the biggest manufacturers, Monsanto, to pay $289 million (£226 million) in damages to a man who claimed glyphosate caused his cancer.
Claimant Dewayne Johnson worked as a groundsman in California and regularly used glyphosate-based weedkillers during his work. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 and claimed the disease was caused by the chemical.
However pharmaceutical company Bayer, which took over Monsanto in June, said it is confident that the chemical is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label. In a written statement, the company said it was ‘sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family’ but would ‘continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use’.
‘This decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews… support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer,’ it said.
Glyphosate is the world’s most common weedkiller, and it’s thought the ruling could lead to hundreds of other claims. The company intends to appeal the verdict.
There has been controversy over the use of glyphosate since the World Health Organisation said in 2015 it was ‘probably carcinogenic’. However since then the European Food Safety Authority has said glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans; and last November EU countries voted to renew the licensing of glyphosate as a weedkiller until 2022.
Even so, the controversy has prompted some councils to consider alternatives for weedkilling, and new weedkillers using vinegar and other plant-based formulas instead of glyphosate are coming onto the market. Here at the garden centre we are watching developments closely, so please ask if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to update you.