For more than 40 years, farmers and others have depended on glyphosate as an efficient and cost-effective tool that can be used safely to control problematic weeds.
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Farmers Need to Protect their Crops from Weeds and other Pests
Every year, as much as 40 percent of the world’s potential harvests are lost to damaging pests, including weeds. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), these losses could double without pesticides and other crop protection practices. That’s why most farmers, both organic and conventional, use some type of pesticide to keep weeds and other pests from hurting their crops.
[Without glyphosate] The organic matter content of the soil is likely to be detrimentally affected. Yields would decline again and increased ploughing would release more CO2 from the soil into the atmosphere. It would be a significant step backwards.
Farmers around the world make multiple decisions each day regarding how best to protect their crops. Weeds steal water, sunlight, and nutrients from crops. Insects and disease can also have a devastating impact on food production. Fortunately, advances in modern agriculture have provided them with a variety of solutions for the task.
“Superweeds explained in one minute”
Glyphosate Is a Vital Tool for Farmers
Supporting the Environment
Glyphosate-based herbicides can help reduce the need for tillage—plowing or turning over the soil. Tillage has always been a powerful weed-control tool, but it can encourage erosion of valuable topsoil. In addition, the process of disturbing the soil releases sequestered carbon into the atmosphere. Using glyphosate-based herbicides, farmers can leave their soil intact while the previous year’s crop residue or organic matter remains on top of the soil. This supports soil health and provides a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with tillage.
Reducing tillage can diminish soil erosion by up to 90 percent and, in 2014 alone, reduced carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to removing nearly 2 million cars from the road.
Crop Protection Is a Collection of Tools, Products, and Practices
There is no single approach in the crop protection fight. Farmers today have a variety of tools, including state-of-the-art pesticides, advanced data analytics, and precision technologies. While these tools are individually powerful, when farmers use them together, it enhances their effectiveness while minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture.
Using only a single tool, like glyphosate-based herbicides, can encourage species of weeds to develop resistance to that tool. To prevent this resistance from developing while still fighting invasive weeds, farmers use a combination of approaches. Bayer supports this by working closely with university researchers, industry partners, and individual farmers to provide the best advice about how to combine crop protection methods.
History of Safe Use
December 7, 2018
Bayer posts more than 300 glyphosate safety study summaries online
For over 40 years, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide has been that glyphosate can be used safely according to label instructions. There have been more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that prove glyphosate is safe for use.
Like all pesticides, regulatory authorities around the world routinely review the latest safety data on glyphosate. Most recently, in December 2017, the EPA reaffirmed the safe use of glyphosate:
The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The Agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.
IARC’s Report on Glyphosate
In March 2015, a group called IARC incorrectly classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” IARC is one of four programs within the World Health Organization (WHO) that has reviewed glyphosate, and the only one to have made such a finding.
IARC’s classification is inconsistent with the overwhelming consensus of regulatory authorities and other experts around the world, who have assessed all the studies examined by IARC – and many more. While IARC’s erroneous classification has attracted media attention and been used repeatedly by activist groups to generate unwarranted fear and confusion, regulators around the world continue to support the safe use of glyphosate.
- Since IARC classified glyphosate, regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have publicly reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer. Additionally, in May 2016, the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.” Click here for more.
- National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Study: The largest study on agricultural workers and health conclusively shows there is no link between glyphosate and cancer. This study has looked at 89,000 agricultural workers and spouses over 20 years, and the conclusion is crystal clear. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. Read the report here.
Again, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is spreading misleading information about glyphosate (Oct. 24, 2018)
A special interest group called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is again publicizing misleading information about pesticide residues in food. The EWG is perhaps best known for their annual “Dirty Dozen” list, which has been widely criticized and debunked (see this report by Huffington Post and this perspective by UC Davis researcher Carl Winter).
The reality is that regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets daily exposure limits at least 100 times below levels shown to have no negative effect in safety studies. The levels sometimes found in food are not even remotely close to any level of concern. Indeed, on Oct. 2, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published results of its annual residue testing program and concluded “levels of pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply are well below established safety standards.” The FDA was clear that the glyphosate levels “were below the tolerance levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
Nothing in the EWG’s new data demonstrate any safety concern associated with the tested products. All levels reported by the EWG are far below the limits EPA established to protect human health. Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (2,837 ppb), an adult would have to eat 81.5 pounds of the oat breakfast cereal every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA. The EWG promoted similar findings in Aug. 15 and was widely criticized for misleading the public (see this article from NBC News and this article by Slate).
Glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe and effective use. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous registration studies required by EPA, European and other regulators, that confirms that they are safe for use. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ its most favorable rating.
Statement in response to paper on organic foods in JAMA Internal Medicine (Oct. 23, 2018)
At face value, this paper shows what medical and nutritional science has already confirmed: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic, combined with a healthy lifestyle, leads to better health outcomes. These facts are well established1.
A previous study looking at dietary exposure to pesticides from commodities concluded “exposures to the most commonly detected pesticides … pose negligible risks to consumers, (and) substitution of organic forms … for conventional forms does not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks”2.
Pesticides are commonly used in both conventional and organic agriculture. Regardless of whether food is conventional or organic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues. These rules ensure that pesticides are used in accordance with best practices and help ensure that the food we purchase for our families is safe to eat. Data from regulatory agencies in Europe, Canada and the United States show that trace residues of pesticides in food, when detectable, are usually far below any level of concern.
As the authors themselves explain, their paper has numerous limitations, including that “our analyses were based on volunteers who were likely particularly health-conscious individuals, thus limiting the generalizability of our findings” and that the cohort participants “exhibit healthier behaviors compared with the French general population.” Additionally, the paper made no actual measurement of pesticide residues or exposure, noting that “strictly quantitative consumption data were not available.”
What is most important for everyone is to eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise, and avoid smoking and other known cancer risk factors.
World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective. Continuous Update and Project Expert Report 2018. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer
Winter CK, Katz JM. Dietary exposure to pesticide residues from commodities alleged to contain the highest contamination levels. J Toxicol. 2011;2011:589674. Winter and Katz, 2011
California Glyphosate Case - Dewayne Johnson (Oct. 22, 2018)
The following is Bayer’s statement regarding a decision by Judge Suzanne R. Bolanos on post-trial motions filed by Monsanto in Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto, a case pending in the Superior Court of the State of California County of San Francisco. Judge Bolanos previously oversaw the Johnson trial.
“The Court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal.”
“Glyphosate-based herbicides have been used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous registration studies required by EPA, European and other regulators, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ its most favorable rating.”
California Glyphosate Case - Dewayne Johnson (Aug. 10, 2018)
We have deep sympathy for Mr. Johnson’s plight. Our hearts go out to the Johnson family, and we understand their desire for answers. Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The verdict was wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal. Consumers, growers, and customers can remain confident in the continued safe use of glyphosate. This decision in no way changes our existing registrations for our glyphosate-based herbicides. Click here for our full statement.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is spreading false information (Aug 15, 2018)
The special interest group EWG issued a press release announcing they detected trace amounts of glyphosate in some food items. Importantly, these levels are not even remotely close to any level of concern. Regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, sets daily exposure limits at least 100 times below levels shown to have no negative effect in safety studies. Click here for our full statement.
California Prop 65 (Aug. 16, 2018)
Monsanto is party to two separate legal challenges related to the unjustified listing of glyphosate under Prop 65. These legal challenges are ongoing and happening in parallel:
- In November 2017, Monsanto joined a broad coalition of agriculture groups from across the country to challenge the constitutionality of California’s unjustified listing of glyphosate under Prop 65. In December 2017, the Coalition petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to impose a preliminary injunction to suspend the effect of the listing until the case is decided on its merits. In February 2018, the Court ruled in the Coalition’s favor, granting a preliminary injunction that blocks the implementation of Prop 65’s warning requirements until the Court has the chance to rule on the lawsuit. This preliminary injunction remains in place.
- Separately, in January 2016, Monsanto filed a legal challenge in California state court to keep glyphosate off the Prop 65 list. In March 2017 a state judge issued a ruling dismissing our challenge. We subsequently filed a petition for review seeking to have the California Supreme Court consider our appeal of the state judges ruling. On Aug. 16, the California Supreme Court denied our petition. Below is our statement on this latest development.
Statement Issued Aug. 16, 2018: “There is no scientific basis to list glyphosate under Prop 65. The listing contradicts 40 years of science and the conclusions of regulatory bodies around the world. The listing requires judicial intervention and correction. We’re considering our options for further legal action. Meanwhile, the federal injunction in place ensures that unconstitutional warning labels are not required on glyphosate products.”
Brazil Court Lifts Injunction (Sept. 3, 2018)
Bayer welcomes the ruling issued on Sept. 3, 2018 by a Brazilian court that ensures growers in that country will have continued access to glyphosate-based herbicides. Previously, on Aug. 3, 2018, a Brazilian judge issued an injunction that could have prohibited the registration and use of glyphosate-based herbicides and several other crop protection products in the country. The injunction was not a ruling on glyphosate safety but only related to delays in routine regulatory reviews of crop protection products. Subsequently, on Sept. 3, a Brazilian court ruled in favor of a remedy filed by the Federal Government to overturn the injunction before it took effect and ensure that Brazilian growers can continue to use glyphosate-based products. Click here for our statement.