Using Roundup remains one of the City of Greater Bendigo’s most efficient methods for managing weeds, even as a California jury finds chemical giant Monsanto liable for causing a terminally ill man’s cancer.
Despite continuing to use the herbicide, parks and open space manager Paul Gangell said the council was “always vigilant at investigating alternative methods to chemical applications where suitable.”
On Friday US-time, Monsanto was ordered to pay US$289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, after a jury found Roundup contributed to his terminal cancer.
Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. It is commonly used for farms, gardens and public spaces.
The Bendigo council has used Roundup in some capacity for many years, Mr Gangell said. It uses a bioactive form with the lowest dosage possible.
“There are other ways the city manages weeds, including mechanical, steam and manual removal. However, it’s not always practical or cost effective in all locations,” he said.
“City staff ensure all safeguards are applied when the chemical is used in public locations, including the use of signage, dyes and the use of accredited staff using personal protective equipment and registered contractors.”
Monsanto is planning to appeal Friday’s court decision and to vigorously defend its product.
“We are sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family,” the company said in a statement.
“(The)decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews – and conclusions by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world including Australia – support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer.
“We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”
The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 classed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, citing what it termed to be limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans.
The finding also cited “convincing evidence” that glyphosate can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
The authors’ consensus was that despite finding a link between glyphosate and cancer, they could not rule out other explanations for the link they observed.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority conducted its own review and in 2017 and said all registered glyphosate products were safe if used per label instructions.
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