Lawmakers in Austria are considering a proposal that would ban the use of Monsanto Roundup and other glyphosate weed killers, amid growing concern that exposure to the popular herbicide might be linked to cancer.
The glyphosate ban was initially proposed by Austria’s center-left Social Democrat party. However, it was thought a no-go after Othmar Karas, the center-right People Party’s lead candidate for the European Parliament, voiced his opposition.
But in a move that surprised most observers, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party announced earlier this month that it would back the glyphosate ban.
“There are enough studies that adequately demonstrate the risk that glyphosate poses to the environment and human health,” said new party leader, Norbert Hofer, according to Politico. “It is therefore a sign of responsible environmental policy to put this ban on track.”
The rare center-left and far-right alliance virtually ensures that legislation imposing a glyphosate ban will make it through Austria’s parliament.
It’s now up to a parliamentary committee to hammer out the details of the legislation, which could take the form of an amendment to a plant protection agent law enacted in 2011. Many expect lawmakers to vote on the final measure in early July.
But even if the proposal passes as expected, it could be a while before any glyphosate ban takes effect in Austria.
“With regards to an entry of the ban, talks are still underway to give all glyphosate users a transitional period to switch to environmentally sound alternatives that are safe for humans,” Hofer said.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup, is the most popular weed killer in the world.
However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, after an independent review linked occupational exposure to a higher risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.
Subsequent scientific research has been mixed. Most recently, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington suggested glyphosate exposure increased the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared glyphosate safe in 2017, and reiterated its conclusion earlier this year. But just weeks later, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said it couldn’t rule out a cancer link and called for more research.
Although the United States hasn’t imposed a glyphosate ban, a growing number of towns and cities around the nation have stopped using the weed killer.
More than 13,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have also been filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of individuals – mostly landscapers, grounds keepers, agricultural workers, and avid home gardeners – who claim glyphosate caused their cancer.
Three Roundup lawsuits have gone to trial since August 2018. Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto last year, has yet to win a single verdict.
The most recent trial concluded in May, when a jury in California’s Alameda Superior Court awarded a stunning $2 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to an elderly couple, both of whom were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (within just years of each other) following decades of glyphosate exposure while gardening on their property.
Two previous trials in San Francisco ended with plaintiffs’ verdicts of $78 million and $80 million.