Australian farmers say a decision by a US court in favour of Roundup maker Bayer has no bearing on their use of the weedkiller.

Key points:

  • The APVMA has approved use of products containing glyphosate when used according to directions
  • Australian farming lobbies say they’ll be guided by that advice rather than overseas court action
  • Bayer has lost billions in lawsuits and may face a class action in Australia

Industry group Grain Growers said it wasn’t concerned with legal proceedings in other jurisdictions, but would follow the advice of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

“It’s really about what the APVMA says, and it says glyphosate is safe to use when you follow the recommended usage instructions,” Grain Growers chair Brett Hosking said.

Glyphosate is a key ingredient of Roundup, which is banned in some countries but widely used on Australian farms.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Bayer, the owner of Roundup maker Monsanto, won a trial in California after a jury found that the herbicide was not the cause of young boy Ezra Clark’s lymphoma.

Ezra’s mother, Destiny Clark, alleged her son developed the cancer after he was exposed to Roundup, which she had used in the garden at the family’s home.

The finding could be appealed.

First win after Bayer beaten for billions

It is the first case the company has won after losing several high-profile court battles that have cost the company billions of dollars.

“The jury’s verdict in favour of the company on causation brings this trial to a successful conclusion and is consistent with the assessments of expert regulators worldwide, as well as the overwhelming weight of four decades of extensive science,” Bayer said in a statement.

“While we have great sympathy for Ezra Clark and his family, the jury carefully considered the science applicable to this case and determined that Roundup was not the cause of his illness.”

Biotech lobby group CropLife Australia described the result as a “win for science”.

“The jury has considered facts and evidence and come to the same conclusion as every pesticide regulatory authority in the world — that glyphosate is safe to use and does not pose a cancer risk to humans,” chief executive Matthew Cossey said.

“It’s human nature that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they want to find an answer to their question — ‘Why me?’

“While we have great sympathy for anyone with cancer, it’s important that these debates continue to be undertaken on science and actual data so that real causes of cancer are identified and addressed.”

Australian class action in the works

Last year, Bayer agreed to spend more than $US10 billion to settle almost 100,000 lawsuits alleging that Roundup caused cancer.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn is preparing an Australian class action against Monsanto, representing individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The suit alleges the company was negligent when it sold Roundup.

Reflecting on the US decision, National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said no chemical compound had been studied as much as glyphosate.

“There is an extensive, international body of scientific work spanning 40 years and 800 studies that affirms that glyphosate is not a carcinogenic, and more precisely, that it does not cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Mr Mahar said in a statement.

Farmers say they’ll stick with homegrown Roundup advice as Bayer wins US court case
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