Proposal to Remove Roundup from Market Issued by EU Environment Committee

European Union officials indicate that the potential Roundup exposure risks require that the controversial glyphosate-based weed killer be phased off of the market, proposing an eventual ban on the herbicides by 2020. 

In a press release issued on October 19, the EU’s Environment and Public Health Committee announced that the committee’s members of Parliament (MEPs) voted 39 to 9, with 10 abstentions, to recommend that the EU ban Monsanto’s Roundup and it’s active ingredient, glyphosate.

The committee called for the EU to immediately begin drawing up plans to remove Roundup from the market, with a full ban in place by December 15, 2020.

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The recommendations are crucial in helping the European Commission decide whether to renew a 10-year license allowing the use of glyphosate in the EU, which expires at the end of the year.

Amid growing concerns over cancer risks associated with glyphosate contained in the popular weed killer, France will likely be a key vote in determining the fate of the renewal, and the country has already said it intends to vote against the re-authorization. However, France has suggested it may be amiable to a shorter time period for the license.

“The Environment and Public Health Committee opposes the European Commission’s proposal to renew the controversial herbicide license for 10 years,” the committee’s press release states. “Instead MEPs say the EU should draw up plans for a phase-out of the substance, starting with a complete ban on household use and a ban in use for farming when biological alternatives (i.e. ‘integrated pest management systems’) work well for weed control.”

The committee’s vote is a non-binding resolution. A full house vote on the committee’s resolution is scheduled for October 24, with EU members states scheduled to vote on the renewal of the glyphosate license the next day.

Roundup Cancer Concerns

Questions about the safety of the Roundup have gained global attention following a decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in March 2015, which declared that the weed killer’s active ingredient glyphosate was a probably carcinogen.

The environment committee noted that recent events raised questions about whether the EU Food Safety Agency (EFSA) or its chemical agency could be trusted to evaluate glyphosate following the release of documents suggesting they had been influenced by Monsanto.

Earlier this month, all Monsanto lobbyists were banned from contacting EU MEPs or attending committees after the company refused to attend a hearing on whether it had unduly influenced EU officials.

The meeting came after the release of documents, known as the “Monsanto Papers,” which suggest that Monsanto had a very substantial influence over regulators, and in some cases wrote portions of Roundup safety reviews.

The documents came to light as part of ongoing litigation in the U.S., where Monsanto faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits filed by individuals who say they contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer following years of Roundup exposure.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal Roundup cases in the American federal court system, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated MDL proceedings, Judge Chhabria has previously determined that the Roundup litigation will be bifurcated, first addressing general causation about the link between the widely used weedkiller and non-Hodgkins lymphoma during a hearing in December 2017, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.

Following resolution of any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup settlement or other resolution for the litigation is not reached during the first phase of discovery, it is expected that Judge Chhabria will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the lawsuits.


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