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Hawaii County is considering a ban on Monsanto herbicide Roundup, following indications that it may increase the risk of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and some other forms of cancer.
The Hawaii County Council plans to vote on August 18 whether to ban government use of the weed killer entirely from the Island of Hawai’i, usually referred to as the “Big Island.” The vote comes after a decision by an international agency to declare that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was a “probable carcinogen.”
The vote on Bill 71 was delayed following extensive testimony at an August 4 meeting, when the vote was originally scheduled. However, 45 people ended up testifying at the meeting, with the vast majority of them calling for the herbicide to be banned in Hawaii County.
Some residents testified that they had been sprayed directly with Roundup by trucks going down the road. The county itself pays $30,000 annually to buy Roundup, and the ban would stop that use entirely. It accounts for between 25-30% of herbicide use by the county.
If approved, the Roundup ban would not affect private use.
Roundup Cancer Concerns
Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides, which was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s containing the active ingredient glyphosate. However, concerns have emerged in recent months about the potential link between Roundup and cancer, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a warning in March about the potential human health side effects of glyphosate.
The IARC declared the chemical a probable carcinogen and linked exposure to a possible risk of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, as well as skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer.
Monsanto has said that the IARC’s conclusions were agenda-driven and based on “junk science,” and has said it is convening its own independent panel to review the cancer risks of Roundup, which is the most widely used weed killer in the world.
Consumer use of Roundup began to skyrocket in the mid 1990s, after Monsanto introduced genetically engineered crops to withstand treatment with Roundup, killing the weeds and not the crops. Genetically modified crops, like corn and soybean, are branded as being “Roundup Ready.”
Some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, thus forcing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated agricultural use of glyphosate increased drastically from 110 million pounds in 2002, now to more than 283 million pounds in 2012.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in April that it plans to address the safety concerns of glyphosate during the regular EPA safety review hearing occurring soon. Researchers warn pesticides are commonly detected in the air, food and water near areas that have been sprayed.
France recently banned the sale of Roundup at garden centers across the country, following the WHO cancer warnings. The ban was enacted in April, and French officials said they plan to ban the use of all pesticides for home-gardening by 2022. The decision was reached one month after the findings of the IARC study were published.
A number of consumers diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other forms of cancer are now considering potential Roundup lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that inadequate warnings were provided about the potential side effects of the weedkiller.