Roundup settlement prompts farmer to demand ban
Renewed calls to ban glyphosate-based weedkillers in Bermuda have been made after the company that owns the Roundup brand said it would pay almost $11 billion to settle cancer claims linked to the product.
Campaigners said alternative ways to control weeds, such as steam and flame weeding and organic treatments, should be considered instead.
Tom Wadson, the owner of Wadson's Farm in Southampton, said: “We need to start thinking outside the box before we end up inside a box.”
German chemicals giant Bayer, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto in 2018, announced it would pay $10.9 billion to settle cancer claims, but denied any wrongdoing. The company said the payout would end “uncertainty”.
Roundup became the world's most popular weedkiller over the past four decades. But it has been the subject of more than 100,000 lawsuits where claims were made that the weedkiller's active ingredient, glyphosate, caused cancers.
Mr Wadson said: “It's bad news. My main concern is what it does. Apparently, it ties up heavy metals with soil and it is wreaking havoc with animal fertility. It's that far into the food chain already.”
Bermuda blocked importation of all new orders of glyphosate-based herbicides in 2015, pending a review. A policy the following year banned all concentrates of glyphosate greater than 2 per cent.
Steam and flame weeding are among possible alternatives when used against seedling weeds.
Mr Wadson said that cells in the weeds collapsed after the reached a certain temperature.
He added: “You can superheat steam, and I know they use that in all the parks in New Zealand and quite a lot in Australia.
“If they go to freshwater steam, it's certainly worth a trial. I've offered to build a prototype machine — but no bites.”
Mr Wadson said he was almost certain that Roundup was not used for roadside spraying in Bermuda.
But it can be bought as a ready-to-use weedkiller.
Mr Wadson added he wanted to to see people use other methods to control weeds.
He said: “People are making up all kinds of stuff. I've one organic weedkiller that's fairly good that is basically a lot of vinegar and clove oil, but you have to hit the seedlings fairly small.”
Bayer denied glyphosate was a carcinogen — the same position as the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr Wadson said the Bayer settlement sent a clear message.
He added: “The message is ‘we messed up' and they probably did that to avoid paying $20 billion.”
He said use of glyphosate, also used in other weedkillers, was a bad idea and that was proved by the settlement and the stance taken by European countries.
Germany is to ban the use of glyphosate at the end of 2023.
The substance is approved in the European Union until the end of 2022, but a review is under way and there have been partial bans in some places and announcements from some organisations that glyphosate would be phased out.
The Royal Gazette reported in March that, in a letter sent to a member of the public concerned about Roundup, Drew Pettit, the director of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, said a ban on products with more than 2 per cent glyphosate was in force.
But he added that ready-to-use products with lower concentrations of the chemical were allowed.
When asked whether it would reconsider its position on glyphosate use on the island in the wake of the Bayer settlement, the Government said it performs research on all pesticides imported for use in Bermuda, looking at the impact on human health and the impact on the environment.
It said: “The probable cancer causing properties of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup – and its effects on humans – continues to be a controversial topic and remains under active review. Until conclusive evidence becomes available the current restrictions, which err on the side of caution and which have been in place since 2015, will continue. There is still a ban on the importation of all pesticide products containing formulations higher than 2 per cent concentration of glyphosate. Only premixed ready to use products below a 2 per cent concentration of glyphosate are allowed to be imported into Bermuda.”
The statement also the Department of Parks, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Highways Section of the Ministry of Public Works do not use Roundup in any of their operations.
This article has been updated to include a response from the Bermuda Government