The Cabinet of Germany — the federal republic’s chief executive body — announced on Wednesday that it will ban the use of glyphosate from the end of 2023. Glyphosate, also known as the brand name Roundup, has been linked to various types of cancer and is the subject of thousands of lawsuits.
The decision is part of a conservation program initiated by the nation’s environment minister Svenja Schulze. Once it enters into force, the bill will prohibit the use of glyphosate in domestic gardens and on the edge of farmers’ fields. The use of the herbicide will also be prohibited around grasslands, orchard meadows, and along some river and lake shores rich in wildlife.
Glyphosate is the most frequently used herbicide both worldwide and in the EU and it has been used for several decades. The chemical is used primarily to combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops or present problems for other reasons (e.g. on railway tracks).
The herbicide, developed by Bayer-owned Monsanto, is the subject of a heated debate after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report concluding that it probably can cause cancer. Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018 for nearly $63 billion, says that most studies and regulators have deemed glyphosate safe.
The nearly 18,000 people who have sued Bayer over concerns that glyphosate is responsible for causing their cancer are of a different opinion. In August of last year, a California jury found that Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks and ordered the company to compensate each plaintiff with tens of millions of dollars. Bayer hopes that research concluding glyphosate is not cancerogenic will sway U.S. appeals courts to reverse or tone down the first three court rulings.
Biologists also say that the chemical may be involved in the dramatic decline of insect populations, which is threatening to disrupt the food chain and plant pollination.
In 2017, the EU Parliament voted to ban the use of glyphosate by 2022. However, the executive branch of the European Union, the Commission, later voted to extend the license of the herbicide for another five years.
This decision has proven extremely controversial among the block’s countries. Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Franca, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Malta voted against the extension.