The country of Wales, England’s next door neighbor and part of the United Kingdom, may be on the verge of banning glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup Weed Killer. Although an outright ban has yet to be declared, the government says it aims to reduce its use, the BBC reports.
But it’s not necessarily the government that’s behind the campaign. Community activists from around the country are leading the grass roots effort.
BBC profiled a resident of the town of Cwmbran, who after seeing a notice for scheduled weed abatement near her home, started a campaign to try and stop her town council from spraying the synthetic chemical compound. Roundup made history back in June when Bayer AG, which now owns the Roundup product line after acquiring Monsanto in 2018 for $62 billion, decided to settle the bulk of 125,000 cancer lawsuits for approximately $10.9 billion.
Bayer will have to pay at least an additional $2 billion to settle any future Roundup claims. To date, Bayer has reached settlement agreements with nearly 90,000 plaintiffs. The company faces an extra few thousand federal lawsuits that are not part of the massive settlement, which is strictly for cases filed at the state level.
Similar to the US EPA stance on glyphosate, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) maintains that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. Glyphosate-based products are still legal in the European Union. The EU licence for the active ingredient is valid until December 2022.
But Wales, as a UK member, will no longer be under the yoke of the EU at the end of the year. That’s because of the UK Brexit, which officially occurred January 31 of this year. Although terms of the British exit from the EU are supposed to be concluded in just a couple weeks, there are several trade deals which have yet to be settled.
However, the BBC says that post-Brexit, EU law which regulates the use of pesticides in the UK will continue to apply. That doesn’t mean that Welsh legislators will be powerless to make their own laws on pesticide and herbicide application. After the first of the year, a new independent pesticide regulatory agency is expected to be established in the UK.
At the local level in Wales, council residents filmed incidences of municipal workers spraying glyphosate-based weed killer, sometimes without wearing protective equipment. Over 1,000 residents in communities around Wales have signed petitions calling for the elimination of glyphosate spraying.
Roundup plaintiffs allege that glyphosate caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare cancer that affects infection-fighting white blood cells. Bayer maintains that glyphosate is safe and has admitted no wrongdoing in any of the tens of thousands of settlement agreements.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And although the EPA maintains glyphosate is safe to humans, a recent report by the agency suggests that the compound is toxic to endangered species of animals and plants.
Meanwhile, many town councils in Wales are looking at alternatives to glyphosate.