Is Glyphosate Going On-Farm Only?

A few years ago, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that the importance of facts was no longer factual in today’s world. I also remember arguing in an earlier column that some anti-agriculture advocates were so entrenched in their views that modern agricultural practices were harmful that nothing the industry did could convince them otherwise, so we should simply give up trying and move on to more receptive consumers.

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I was reminded of both of these columns recently when I heard about the latest news regarding everyone’s favorite crop protection product “whipping boy in the court of public opinion,” glyphosate. As you might recall in June 2020, glyphosate’s main supplier, Bayer, entered into a tentative agreement with multiple law firms and their clients to settle the numerous glyphosate lawsuits against the popular herbicide. This seemingly would have eliminated (or at least lessened) the company’s legal troubles, allowing glyphosate sales to continue without further issues.

However, this past March, a new court challenge was filed by the Fears Nachawati Law Firm. This asked the federal judge to reject the proposed settlement that would shield Bayer from future cancer lawsuits. The motion described the deal as “a one-way street that provides no benefits and imposes many burdens.”

In late May, the court agreed, with Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denying the motion to preliminarily approve the Roundup class settlement agreement. Naturally, Bayer was disappointed with this decision, once again citing the science behind glyphosate’s safety.

“The court’s decision closes the door on an MDL court-supervised national class solution to manage potential future litigation, which would have been the fairest, most efficient mechanism for all parties,” said the company in a press release. “Still, we have legal and commercial options that together will achieve a similar result in mitigating future litigation risk, and we will pursue them as quickly as possible. Significantly, the weight of scientific evidence and the conclusions of all expert regulators worldwide continue to support the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides.

Furthermore, as part of its new plan for managing glyphosate going forward, Bayer appears ready to abandon unconvinced consumers. “While the company will remain in the residential lawn and garden market, it will immediately engage with partners to discuss the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market, as the overwhelming majority of claimants in the Roundup litigation allege that they used Roundup Lawn and Garden products,” it said.

So it appears that glyphosate, while remaining an important tool for agriculture, just might disappear from the residential market. Yet, given the circumstances, is this potential outcome really all that surprising?

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