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$10 Billion Roundup Settlement Highlights EPA’s Regulatory Failure

Researchers estimated 18.9 billion pounds of glyphosate, the key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, have been used globally. (Adobe Stock)
Researchers estimated 18.9 billion pounds of glyphosate, the key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, have been used globally. (Adobe Stock)
June 29, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The German company Bayer has agreed to shell out around $10 billion to around 95,000 plaintiffs who alleged that glyphosate, the key ingredient in its Roundup weed killer, gave them cancer.

Roundup originally was developed by Monsanto in the early 1970s. Bayer bought the company in 2018. The company said these agreements contain no admission of liability or wrongdoing.

Senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity Nathan Donley said the health concerns around glyphosate are alarming, yet the herbicide continues to be touted as safe by Bayer and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We use around 300 million pounds of it each year in the United States - and that's just in the agricultural sector, that's not counting what people use in their homes," Donley said. "Many people have seen it when they walk into their local hardware store or big-box store, it's generally right there up front."

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina is home to more than 48,000 farms, and ranks 13th nationwide for use of pesticides and herbicides like Roundup in agriculture. The state's farms also employ large numbers of migrant workers to apply pesticides to fields.

Donley said the settlement does nothing to curb Roundup's use.

"It doesn't attempt to put a warning label, for instance, on bottles of Roundup saying that it could potentially cause cancer," he said.

Wrapped up in the settlement, he says, is hundreds of millions of dollars going toward farmers who have been harmed by another herbicide produced by Bayer called Dicamba, as well as for water contamination caused by PCB pollution.

"This is really indicative of an absolute regulatory collapse in the U.S. when it comes to dangerous pollutants like these," he said. "And it should really be a wake-up call to the EPA."

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated glyphosate probably is carcinogenic to humans.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC