Austria has become the first European country to approve a total ban on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup.
The glyphosate ban passed the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, backed by an unusual coalition of Austria’s center-left Social Democrat party, the far-right Freedom Party, and the liberal Neos party.
“The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing. It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment,” the leader of Austria’s Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement.
According to Reuters, the small upper house of parliament is not expected to raise any objections to the glyphosate ban. If that’s the case, it will become law once signed by Austrian Alexander Van der Bellen.
Other countries in Europe have instituted partial glyphosate bans, but none have taken steps to completely prohibit the controversial weed killer.
Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s, and it has since become the most popular weed killer in the world. Once Monsanto’s patent expired, dozens of other chemical companies began to market their own glyphosate-based herbicides.
In March 2015, however, an independent review conducted by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancers (IARC) linked occupational glyphosate exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancer, prompting the group to declare the weed killer a probable human carcinogen.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer last year, disputed the finding. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulators have declared glyphosate safe. However, critics have accused Monsanto of ghostwriting positive glyphosate studies and leveraging a cozy relationship with the EPA to manipulate its review of the herbicide.
Earlier this year, a study published by researchers at the University of Washington suggested glyphosate exposure increased the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%. And in April, 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.
Bayer is currently defending more than 13,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts throughout the United States. Of three cases that have gone to trial so far, Bayer has yet to win a single verdict. So far, plaintiffs have been awarded compensatory and punitive damages ranging from $78 billion to $200 billion.
Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney who led negotiations for the 9/11 Victims Compensation fund, is now leading mediation in an effort to resolve the Roundup cancer litigation.