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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) Farmers spray, on average, almost a pound of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, on every acre of cropland in the United States. It’s a huge source of income for its maker, Monsanto. “If you know nothing else about GMOs and Monsanto, know this: The St. Louis-based company reengineered the DNA of corn, soybeans, and other crops for the primary purpose of making them resistant to Roundup,” this article says. It’s also why Bayer AG agreed to buy Monsanto for $66 billion, pending regulatory approvals. “Other than government antitrust objections, about the only thing that could mess up the purchase would be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reverse its position on the active ingredient of Roundup, glyphosate.” The EPA last year convened a panel of outside scientists to peer-review its long-standing conclusion that the substance is unlikely to cause cancer. It was a process considered to be something of a formality, but eight of the 15 experts expressed significant concerns about the EPA’s conclusion, and three more expressed concerns about the data. “Every time there’s something positive there, you said there’s something wrong with the study,” Eric Johnson, an epidemiologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told EPA officials at a meeting. The question will now fall to the Trump EPA and the courts. The EPA, led by Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has already canceled a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to cognitive damage in farmworkers and children, seems unlikely to make a move against glyphosate. In the courts, a multidistrict litigation composed of 310 plaintiff lawsuits against Monsanto filed by cancer victims is before U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco. He says the question of whether Roundup can cause cancer will turn on the scientific evidence presented at trial, particularly the difference between Roundup and glyphosate. The plaintiffs argue that Roundup contains ingredients that exacerbate the effects of glyphosate alone. Monsanto, saying glyphosate is nothing to worry about, is vigorously contesting the claims. This article continues with in-depth reporting on the intricacies and particulars of the court case and the controversy over whether glyphosate is carcinogenic. It also addresses what a shift to glyphosate-free farming could look like. Overall, the article concludes, “The doubt invading Monsanto’s prize product is as strong as it’s ever been, even as Roundup has become instrumental in industrial agriculture. Farmers and consumers have reaped huge savings from productivity gains made possible by taming the scourge of weeds. Improbable as it seems, suppose the EPA now moves glyphosate from the category of unlikely carcinogen to suggestive or even likely. That would trigger extensive cost-benefit analyses. Then the questions get really difficult.”

Posted July 13th, 2017
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