By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
Germany has announced it will reduce its use of glyphosate and ban it outright from the end of 2023, just after an EU-wide license to use the weedkiller expires in December 2022.
As DW reports in Germany set to ban glyphosate from end of 2023:
The ban, agreed by the Cabinet on Wednesday, is part of an insect conservation program from Environment Minister Svenja Schulze.
It includes a “systematic reduction strategy” which would initially prohibit use of the chemical in domestic gardens and allotments, and on the edge of farmers’ fields.
Germany’s move comes after lawmakers in Austria passed a bill banning all use of the weedkiller, making the country the first to do so. Some 20 French mayors banned it from their municipalities last month — in defiance of their national government.
As Common Dreams elaborates in Because ‘A World Without Insects Is Not Worth Living In,’ Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate:
Germany’s environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, framed the new move as necessary to protect biodiversity, and said that “a world without insects is not worth living in”.
“What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said at a press conference. “What we need is more humming and buzzing.”
As Bloomberg reports in Germany Aims to Ban Glyphosate Usage in Weedkiller:
As part of the proposal approved by [Angela Merkel’s] cabinet on Wednesday, the government intends to oppose any request for the EU to renew the license to produce the weedkiller, according to a release by the environment ministry. Jurisdiction over licensing lies with Brussels and not with EU member countries.
The EU last licensed the use of glyphosate in 2017, to expire in 2022.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, originally manufactured by Monsanto, and now the target of more than 18,000 lawsuits in the United States, where plaintiffs allege it caused their cancers. Bayer is defending against these lawsuits, as it assumed Roundup-related legal liabilities when it acquired Monsanto in 2018. Bayer’s failure to limit its own liability from those lawsuits was a catastrophic error.
So far, three of the lawsuits have yielded verdicts. Bayer has lost each judgment; the latest stung it with nearly $87 million in damages (even though the jury’s original $2 billion punitive damages award was significantly reduced). For further details, please see these previous posts, Roundup Roundup: Judge Slashes Punitive Damages Award in Glyphosate Lawsuit, EPA Says Glyphosate Is Safe, But Lawsuits Loom and Bayer’s Woes Mount , Breakfast of Champions: New Tests Reveal Unsafe Levels of Glyphosate in Children’s Cereals, and Glyphosate Use Surges in Midwest, Lawsuits Mount: What Will the Supremes Say?.
The chemical is now out of patent, and according to DW, is currently marketed by dozens of other chemical groups, including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF.
The WSJ attempted to minimize the impact on Bayer of this decision, saying in Bayer’s Roundup Woes Deepen as Germany Bans Key Chemical:
The move is unlikely to directly affect the chemicals and pharmaceuticals group’s bottom line because Germany is a negligibly small market for Roundup. The decision was motivated by environmental considerations rather than glyphosate’s alleged potential to cause cancer, which is at the center of the lawsuits. Still, the optics of Roundup being banned in Bayer’s backyard are jarring amid the company’s insistence that it is safe to use.
Others applauded the move, such as the Organic Consumers Organisation, mistakenly claiming it was motivated by concern the chemical causes cancer. Germany clearly stated the ban was motivated by glyphosate’s impact on insects, and didn’t mention cancer concerns.
— Organic Consumers (@OrganicConsumer) 4 September 2019
When the EU license comes up for renewal, it looks increasingly likely it won’t be approved. Several EU countries already oppose the use of glyphosate, according to DW:
Views over glyphosate use in the EU and how to proceed are divided by country, as well as by branch of the bloc.
In October 2017 the European Parliament approved a nonbinding resolution to ban the chemical’s use by 2022.
However, the law-making executive branch of the EU, the Commission, voted a few months later to extend the glyphosate license for another five years, though the vote revealed divisions in the bloc.
France voted against the 2017 extension, and President Emmanuel Macron has pushed for phasing out glyphosate in the coming years. Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta also voted against the extension.
Germany supported the extension, though roughly one year later the country introduced stricter national regulations for pesticides. The Czech Republic has also announced it will limit its use.
So, if the EU does not renew the license for the use of glyphosate, this would be yet another area in which EU health and safety regulations exceed those of the US. The EPA recently doubled down on its previous call that the chemical herbicide glyphosate is safe, as I wrote in May in EPA Says Glyphosate Is Safe, But Lawsuits Loom and Bayer’s Woes Mount,:
The agency announced in an April 30 press release:
EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The agency’s scientific findings on human health risk are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by many other countries and other federal agencies. While the agency did not identify public health risks in the 2017 human health risk assessment, the 2017 ecological assessment did identify ecological risks. To address these risks, EPA is proposing management measures to help farmers target pesticide sprays on the intended pest, protect pollinators, and reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate.
“EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s proposed action includes new management measures that will help farmers use glyphosate in the most effective and efficient way possible, including pollinator protections. We look forward to input from farmers and other stakeholders to ensure that the draft management measures are workable, realistic, and effective.”
Meanwhile, the litigation juggernaut proceeds.