Brazilian farmers will continue to have access to the world’s most used weed killer after Brazil’s Federal judge reversed a previous ruling, which had suspended the existing and new registration of glyphosate-based products.
Federal appeals revoked a court-ordered suspension of licenses in Brazil for products containing the herbicide. The court ruled that “nothing justified” the suspension, “without previous analysis of the grave impact it would have on the country’s economy and on production in general”.
At the beginning of August, a ban was ordered by a judge in Brasilia until Brazilian health agency Anvisa (National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance) re-assessed the toxicity of the agrochemicals.
“This ruling is very good news for Brazilian growers, who count on glyphosate-based herbicides to control weeds and grow their crops safely and effectively,” commented Liam Condon, a member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG. Bayer has recently merged with Monsanto, creating an agrichemical juggernaut.
As Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans and relies heavily on the pesticide, such a restriction would have caused serious damage to the national economy according to the state attorney, with a “serious impact” on the Brazilian trade balance.
The European Commission’s decision to re-authorise glyphosate was criticised across Europe, especially by green NGOs who said the executive had bowed the pressure from big agrifood corporations.
Hundreds of lawsuits are pending in US courts and Monsanto was recently ordered to pay a compensation of $289 million to a plaintiff who had sued the company saying he had contracted cancer because of his exposure to the herbicide.
Studies on the health effects of glyphosate have produced conflicting results. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have approved the chemical, claiming it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.
The same opinion was shared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
However, this is in contrast to an assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded in 2015 that the herbicide solution was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.