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Monsanto faces the real possibility of being forced to recall Roundup from store shelves in Europe, after a proposal to give the weed killer glyphosate a limited license extension failed to garner enough votes from European Union member states.
On Monday, member states of the EU voted 20 to 7 to grant a 12 to 18 month extension on the license for the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller. However, under EU rules, a vote must represent 65% of the EU’s population for a proposal to go forward, which this most recent vote failed to achieve.
The vote comes as Monsanto faces a June 30 deadline, when its license for glyphosate will expire. If that deadline is reached, all glyphosate products must be removed from stores in the European Union.
The problems stem from mounting concerns over the potential health risks associated with Roundup exposure, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate is likely a cancer-causing agent last year.
The warning has sparked debate worldwide about the potential link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as other forms of cancer.
Monsanto has aggressively criticized the decision to list their Roundup as a human carcinogen, dismissing the IARC findings as agenda driven and based on “junk science.”
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also conflicted with the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe. Scientists and supporters on both sides of the debate have called the processes of the other unscientific, and the European Commission has delayed the renewal of glyphosate’s license across Europe.
Due to objections from several member states, the European executive called for a 12 to 18 month extension on the license to give time for a further study by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) into Roundup side effects and potential health risks. The normal license renewal lasts for 15 years.
Germany, one of the largest EU members, abstained from the vote as Germany-based Bayer Healthcare has put forward a $62 billion bid to buy Monsanto.
Roundup Lawsuits in the U.S.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.
In all that time, the FDA has never tested for residue or buildup in the food sold to Americans nationwide. In a report published in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for this deficiency in its pesticide program.
Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits in the United States, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker.
The complaints allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a cancer diagnosis if they had been warned about the Roundup risks for farmers, landscapers and others in the agricultural industry, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.