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Officials in Thailand indicate that the U.S. government is trying to pressure the nation to allow the continued sale of the controversial weedkiller Roundup, despite prior decisions to ban the active ingredient glyphosate and several other pesticides that are believed to be harmful.
On Friday, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the country is moving ahead with a ban on glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and paraquat. The ban goes into effect on December 1, despite a reported letter from the Trump Administration, urging Thailand to reconsider the decision.
The recommendation to ban the three substances was first made by the National Hazardous Substances Committee last week. The U.S. letter that followed has been perceived in Thailand as an attempt to pressure the country to keep exposing its people to what it considers dangerous pesticides and herbicides, in order to help make the Trump Administration look good on trade policy.
The letter was written by U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Ted McKinney to the prime minister of Thailand and seven cabinet ministers, complaining that the decision would affect the import of U.S. soybeans, which are treated with Roundup. It also reiterated claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that glyphosate has been proven safe. However, officials noted that the letter did not include information regarding ongoing litigation over Roundup exposure, which has been brought by individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other forms of cancer.
In the United States, Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary face about 20,000 Roundup lawsuits brought by farmers, agricultural works and consumers nationwide, each raising similar allegations that users developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other forms of cancer after repeated exposure to the glyphosate-based weedkiller.
Three cases have gone to trial so far, each resulting in massive damage awards after a jury found that Roundup exposure caused the plaintiffs’ cancer diagnosis and that Monsanto has withheld safety information for years.
Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, were linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. Since then it has been banned in a number of countries.
An editorial published by the Bangkok Post took the administration to task for what it believes was an effort to put the U.S. trade policy ahead of the health of Thailand citizens, noting the court victories by plaintiffs and indications that Bayer may have to pay as much as $8 billion in Roundup cancer settlements.
“Such reports were missing from the US agency’s remarks suggesting the Thai government abandon the ban,” the editorial states. “In fact, suspicions are being raised on the influence of lobbying by the agro giant on US policymakers.”
McKinney’s letter asked Thailand to at least postpone its decision on glyphosate, but the government refused. When the law takes effect, it will ban production, import, export, transfer or possession of Roundup and the other pesticides.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that the U.S. exported nearly $600 million in soybeans to Thailand in 2018. It also exported $180 million in wheat, which is also likely to be affected by the new law.