Agriculture in trouble



Glyphosate - a component of herbicides - has been approved for use by the European Union until 2022.Still, lawsuits initiated due to cases of cancer may require a revolution in agriculture to take place, as well as the replacement of commonly used weed killers.

Andrew Kniss, a researcher dealing with the subject of weeds at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, comments on the reaction of farmers to court defeats inflicted to the most widely used glyphosate on a global scale with the words "fear and shock".The industry has concerns over the loss of the compound that is of crucial meaning for combating weeds and soil protection.

Two property owners have recently been awarded USD 2 billion in the courtroom.They claimed that their cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a kind of cancer) resulted from their long-lasting use of Roundup: a herbicide based on glyphosate.This is yet the third case won before the court since August, 2018 and - at the same time - a problem for the producer: Bayer AG, whose market value has dropped by a half until now.

So far, no health agency has identified any cancer-related risk concerning glyphosate.Some scientists are of the opinion that there has come the right moment to begin pursuing new and more diversified forms of weed control - somewhere in the middle of public distrust and the increase in the presence of weeds demonstrating resistance to Roundup and other herbicides.

Paul Neve, a weed researcher at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK, states that what we need to do is switch to cropping systems that rely on herbicides to a lesser extent.

While it will not be an easy task to compete with glyphposate that makes up about 25% of all herbicides sold worldwide, due to transgenic plants developed with the intent of making them resistant to glyphosate (such as Bayer's "Roundup Ready" seeds) farmers may spray the substance with no harm inflicted to their plantations.

The controversy that surrounds Roundup, the world's most popular herbicide, broke out after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France constituting a part of the World Health Organization, mentioned glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" in 2015.In practice, however, such a label has been applied to dozens of chemical substances, red meat and very hot beverages included.The decision by IARC has resulted in a flood of lawsuits, thus increasing the pressure of environment-oriented groups with regard to banning glyphosate. Such groups point to the presence of health risks as arising from animal studies which, in fact, are not extensive enough in terms of their scale to be deemed credible.


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