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France Halts Sales of Weed Killer Roundup at Garden Centers

Jun 17, 2015

Three months after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, classified the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup a “probably carcinogenic to humans,” France has announced a ban on the sale of the weed killer in garden centers.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in weed killers widely used by both farmers and home gardeners. It is a major product of the biotechnology giant Monsanto, Newsweek reports.

On Sunday, Segolene Royal, France’s Ecology Minister, told French television she had asked garden centers “to stop putting Monsanto's Roundup on sale" in self-service aisles. Glyphosate was introduced in the 1970s under the brand Roundup and in both the brand name and generic versions it is the most-used weed killer in the world, according to the IARC. As of 2012, glyphosate was the top choice for killing weeds in New York City parks, according to the (U.K.) Independent. In recent years, “Roundup Ready” versions of crops like corn and soybeans, modified to tolerate glyphosate, have become popular with growers because the grower can spray Roundup on fields without damaging crops.

The IARC’s evaluation of glyphosate revealed evidence of the cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in studies in the United States, Sweden and Canada conducted among farm workers since 2001. Monsanto contested the IARC classification, according to Newsweek. In a statement, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, said "this result was reached by selective 'cherry picking' of data and is a clear example of agenda-driven bias." The company claims, “All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product,” according to the Independent. Monsanto says “every glyphosate-based herbicide on the market meets the rigorous standards set by regulatory and health authorities to protect human health." But last month, prompted by health concerns, the government of Colombia announced it will stop using glyphosate in aerial spraying programs to destroy illegal plantations of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine. When glyphosate is sprayed from the air, the chemical can drift to surrounding areas, contaminating soil and water. Residents can inhale or come into contact with the chemical.

Cancer is not the only health concern raised for Roundup. In addition, glyphosate has been shown to cause adverse health effects including respiratory distress, impaired consciousness, pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and renal failure, according to a 2004 study published in Toxicology Review.

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