Germany’s Approach in Ending Glyphosate
by Jason Zheng
From the legacy of Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and their
genetically modified seeds, Bayer AG (OTCMKTS: BAYRY) continued to push forward
with their acquisition. The US$ 63 billion merger came with a hefty burden.
Prolonged Monsanto lawsuits and settlements became now Bayer AG’s issue. Bayer
AG’s CEO Werner Baumann stated that the company will consider settling
Monsanto’s glyphosate lawsuits depending on the legal costs, but they will
defend against claims they cause cancer. The company denies glyphosate causes
cancer and their statement is backed by decades of scientific studies and
real-world usage of these chemicals prove to be safe for humans.
The European Union has some of the strictest laws regarding
usage of pesticides. It is required for these types of products to be
demonstrated that they are safe for usage, rather in some systems only requires
the manufacturer to prove harm. Even with these strict regulations, harmful
chemicals are still sliding under the rather due to inadequate testing. The
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) uses 12 pesticide risk-testing methods in
determining if and how these chemical products can be use in the EU. However,
11 of these tests were either developed and promoted by the pesticide industry.
In 2016, the sales of glyphosate in Germany reached 3,780
tonnes, the lowest in 13 years. In the agreement signed between the Christian
Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)
conservative and the Social Democratic Party of Germany liberals, both parties
agreed to end the usage of glyphosate “as soon as possible” in order to protect
biodiversity. However, there is no known alternative to replace the
controversial weed killer at the current moment. A full replacement is not
possible, and users can opt for other weed killers in the market by changing
the dosage and frequency, can still negatively impact biodiversity.
Recently, the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature
Conservation and Nuclear Safety in Germany imposed tougher policies and to
develop a plan in eliminating the reliance of glyphosate and similar products.
By 2020, farmers are required to set aside 10 percent of their farmland to
protect biodiversity if they want to still continue using glyphosate and similar
herbicides. The Environmental Ministry plans to further limit the usage of
glyphosate in ecologically sensitive areas and water protection zones. As well,
a general rule will impose a restriction that the glyphosate related products
within 20 meters of water.
These efforts were made because in 2017, EU member states
voted to extend the license to use glyphosate for another five years, despite
the resistance of other EU member states. After that, glyphosate may be phased
out or ban by 2023. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has
already made suggestions in banning weed killers in private gardens and parks.