Glyphosate- The Debate

Author: Elizabeth Baker
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In an article by Matthew Appleby  dated 13 August 2018 called “What is the future for glyphosate ?” published in Horticulture Week it is stated that “The horticulture industry has defended glyphosate after a landmark US court case saw chemical company Monsanto ordered to pay $289m (£226m) damages to a groundskeeper who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.”

46 year old, Dewayne Johnson, took Monsanto to court, being the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging a glyphosate link to cancer. In 2014 Mr Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  He worked as a groundskeeper since 2012 using herbicides, Monsanto Roundup and Ranger Pro to control weeds that grow on school grounds, sometimes employing the products for several hours a day. He argued that the exposure to the chemicals contained in Roundup and Ranger Pro was the cause of his cancer.

In the court case a Californian jury found that Monsanto knew the weedkillers were dangerous and failed to warn consumers.

Monsanto’s vice president Scott Partridge has said “The jury’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews- and conclusions by the U S Environmental Protection Agency, the U S National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world- support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer. We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others.”

However, in certain countries such as Italy and Portugal the use of glyphosate has been banned  for use in gardens and public parks and  is also prohibited in the Canadian City of Vancouver.

Matthew Appleby in his said article reveals this timeline:

“1970s: Glyphosate discovered to be a herbicide by Monsanto

1974: Roundup introduced by Monsanto

2015: IARC study finds that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”

2017: European Chemical s Agency finds glyphosate is safe

2017: EC re-registers glyphosate for 5 years

2018 : Monsanto sold to Bayer for $63bn

2018: Johnson v Monsanto case. Johnson wins $289m damages”

Following a study by the Oxford Economics, it is estimated that 5.4 million acres of farmland around the UK are being treated on an annual basis with glyphosate and it is now highly likely that numerous similar claims against Monsanto will follow.

Soil Association policy head Emma Hockridge says “We need to urgently change our systems of weed control to stop relying on herbicides. It was disturbing in this case to hear that Monsanto had knowledge of the potentially harmful effects, but the court case also really highlights the problem with relying on chemical pesticides globally as so little is known about the long-term environmental and health impacts.”

Elizabeth Baker

About Elizabeth Baker

Elizabeth is our Business Development Manager. She has a degree in both English Literature and Law from Glasgow University. After graduating in 1983 she served her traineeship as a solicitor in Oban. When she was admitted as a solicitor her first job was at Mitchells Roberton in 1985 so she is a well known face. She spread her wings and joined other firms along the way and had a successful law practice under her own name for some years. She returned to Mitchells Roberton in 2011 and works primarily to enhance the marketing of our firm. With her excellent links with small business and the media in the greater Glasgow area, she is well placed in the role and generates a good deal of referrals and new business. Elizabeth is a people person and naturally connects with both staff and clients. Elizabeth has two grown up children and loves walking her dog, travelling and reading literature. Email:

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