France Committed to Developing Safer Alternative to Roundup

France recently announced a plan to cut back on the use of pesticides. This announcement came at around the same time as a government spokesperson stated that France would vote against extending the license for the use of glyphosate in the European Union, because of the herbicide’s suspected connection to cancer.

France abstained from voting on this issue in the past.  But if they vote against it this time, they could block the E.U. from obtaining the majority vote that is needed to continue using Roundup on crops.

France Intends to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides

According to PhysOrg, government spokesman Christophe Castaner initially reported that France intends to completely phase out glyphosate by 2022. He told RMC Radio that the prime minister “has decided that this product will be banned in France by the end of the government’s term, as well as others that are similar and which are a public health threat.”

He later amended his comments, and said simply that France was “committed to seeing significant progress on all pesticides.” He added that the government would set aside 5.0 billion Euros to support the development of safer alternatives.

The change could be because France’s farming union, the FNSEA, has expressed concern about the prospect of a sudden, complete ban, noting that they have no similar alternatives to use to control weeds, and that such a move could put them at a disadvantage with other competitors.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was a “probable human carcinogen”.  But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contradicted that conclusion later that year, stating that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.

A recent article in The Guardian reported that several pages of the EFSA report were copied and pasted directly from materials created by Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. The EFSA countered by stating these pages were simply lists of studies available to the public, but some of those studies included assessments by former Monsanto employees.

Studies Find a Link Between Glyphosate and NHL

In October 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federally-filed Roundup lawsuits in the Northern District of California (“Roundup MDL”). Currently, there are about 250 cases pending there, filed by plaintiffs who claim that after extended exposure to Roundup, they developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), or a similar type of cancer. It is expected that the number of cases filed in the Roundup MDL will continue to grow in the coming months.

A number of studies have found links between glyphosate and NHL. In 2005, for example, researchers looked at data from the Agricultural Health Study, which included over 57,000 pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina, and found a suggested association between glyphosate and multiple myeloma. In 2008, researchers again found an association between glyphosate and NHL.