Canadian regulators are taking another look at glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
Monsanto Roundup is the most popular herbicide in the world. In Canada, it is commonly applied to corn, soy, wheat and oats, as well as chickpeas and other crops.
In 2015, however, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen after an independent review suggested exposure could increase an individual’s risk for cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Monsanto, which vehemently denies any link between glyphosate and cancer, subsequently launched an aggressive campaign to discredit the IARC review.
Health Canada re-approved glyphosate in 2015, and confirmed that decision in 2017. Since then however, a consortium of environmental groups has accused Monsanto of exerting undue influence on many of the studies considered during the regulator’s glyphosate reviews.
Their claims were given traction last month, when Critical Reviews in Toxicology acknowledged that Monsanto had played a major role in 5 glyphosate studies that contradicted the IARC findings. The company’s involvement wasn’t disclosed when the studies were initially submitted or published, prompting the journal to take the unusual step of issuing an “Expression of Concern” in October.
Canadian regulators confirmed their most recent glyphosate review earlier this month.
“Health Canada scientists are currently reviewing hundreds of studies to assess whether the information justifies a change to the original decision, or the use of a panel of experts not affiliated with Health Canada,” the agency said in a statement to CBC-Radio Canada.
More than 8,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have been filed in the United States on behalf of individuals who allegedly developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers due to glyphosate exposure.
The nation’s first trial involving Roundup and cancer concluded in August, when a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former California groundskeeper with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
During the trial, 46-year-old Dwayne Johnson told jurors that he had used Monsanto’s glyphosate-herbicides, including Roundup, 20-to-30 times per year over the course of his career. His attorneys also presented internal emails and other documents which they said were proof of Monsanto’s heavy involvement in positive glyphosate studies.
The trial judge has since upheld the jury’s unanimous verdict, although she did reduce the total award to comply with California’s constitutional limits on punitive damages.
Bayer – which acquired Monsanto earlier this year – has promised to aggressively defend against the growing litigation. However, the company’s CEO has also suggested that Bayer might consider a Monsanto Roundup settlement if litigation costs become excessive.