Mexico Bans Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide

Mexico Bans Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide

On June 25, 2020, Mexico announced plans to ban glyphosate-based Roundup herbicides. The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Mexico’s Environment Ministry, has created a strategy to phase out these herbicides by 2024. 

SEMARNAT’s announcement cited concerns about human and environmental health caused by exposure to glyphosate. The organization stated, “Given the scientific evidence of glyphosate toxicity, demonstrating the impacts on human health and the environment, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) has taken important steps to gradually reduce the use of this chemical until it achieves a total ban in 2024.” (1)

The ban on glyphosate comes as part of an effort to make Mexico’s agricultural systems “safer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly.” Dr. Adelita San Vicente Tello, Director General of the Primary Sector and Renewable Natural Resources at SEMARNAT, is working with the National Council of Science and Technology to analyze alternative pest-management methods for large-scale agricultural production. The team is interested in approaches that have been used by Mexican farmers and indigenous communities for thousands of years. 

SEMARNAT also plans to release education campaigns regarding the glyphosate phaseout. Infographics and videos will explain the environmental and health impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides. The campaigns will be translated into several languages. They will include data and independent scientific sources. 

Dr. San Vincente Tello spoke about the importance of placing health above economic productivity. In the face of this problem, she said, we all have to act because “beyond productivity, there is human and environmental health.” (1)

Glyphosate in Herbicides

Glyphosate is a herbicide used to kill broadleaf plants and grasses. The company Monsanto invented the herbicide, and it was first registered for use in the United States in 1974, which is now owned by Bayer AG.  It has become one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S., with people applying it for personal, commercial, and industrial purposes. (2, 3)

Because glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, it will kill most plants. It works by inhibiting plants from making specific proteins that they need to grow. (3)

Glyphosate is an ingredient in more than 750 products available for purchase in the U.S. These products come in many forms, including acid and several salts. (3)

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, pure glyphosate is low in toxicity. However, most herbicides that contain it also include other ingredients to help the glyphosate get into the plants and kill them. These additional ingredients can make glyphosate more toxic. Exposure to herbicides containing glyphosate can cause the following symptoms: (3, 6)

  • eye and skin irritation
  • nose and throat irritation
  • increased saliva
  • burns in the mouth and throat
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fatalities in cases of intentional ingestion

Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. There is increasing concern about the impacts of this widely used herbicide on environmental and human health. Several countries have chosen to ban the use of glyphosate. Moreover, multiple cases against Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, have led to multi-million dollar awards to people who claim that exposure to Roundup was a substantial factor in their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Some cases alleged that Monsanto suppressed information about the possible carcinogenicity of Roundup herbicide. (5)

Bayer cites numerous studies that say there are no health risks from using Roundup. But conflicting studies challenge those claims. An evaluation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosates as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In their report, the IARC noted that glyphosate had caused cancer in laboratory animals. It has also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. (7, 5)

Researchers at the University of Washington conducted a study on the toxicity of glyphosate in 2019. They found that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides raises the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by 41%. (8)

Countries Banning Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide

Mexico is not the first country to ban glyphosate herbicide or other glyphosate-containing herbicides. Vietnam, Thailand, and Luxembourg all banned the herbicide previously. In other countries, specific states and cities have restricted the use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides. Others have declared their intention to limit or ban the herbicide in the future. (4, 10)

The state of California attempted to require Bayer to label Roundup herbicide to warn that glyphosate is a carcinogenic chemical. But in June 2020, a judge sided with Bayer in its lawsuit against the state of California. The judge overrode this requirement. The 2020 lawsuit came after Bayer had lost a 2018 lawsuit against the state in which it disputed California's decision that glyphosate should be listed as a carcinogenic chemical. (9)

"This ruling is a huge loss for all Californians as the ruling overturns our right to protect ourselves and our environment from unnecessary and unwanted exposure to the dangerous chemical, glyphosate," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at Center for Food Safety. (9)

While research continues to mount hopefully more governments will adopt protective measures to protect consumers. In the meantime avoiding use of glyphosate at home as well as avoiding products where it was used, can help protect health.  

Sources:

  1. Where is Glyphosate Banned? Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/where-is-glyphosate-banned/. Published July 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  2. Charles D. Emails Reveal Monsanto's Tactics To Defend Glyphosate Against Cancer Fears. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/15/520250505/emails-reveal-monsantos-tactics-to-defend-glyphosate-against-cancer-fears. Published March 15, 2017. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  3. Glyphosate. National Pesticide Information Center. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html. Published March 2019. Accessed October 4, 2020.
  4. Another country bans glyphosate use. ISHN RSS. https://www.ishn.com/articles/112144-another-country-bans-glyphosate-use. Published January 21, 2020. Accessed October 5, 2020.
  5. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. 2015.
  6. Bradberry SM, Proudfoot AT, Vale JA. Glyphosate Poisoning. Toxicological Reviews. https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00139709-200423030-00003. Published August 23, 2012. Accessed October 5, 2020.
  7. Glyphosate Facts: Impact on Human Health and Safety. Bayer. https://www.bayer.com/en/glyphosate/glyphosate-impact-human-health-and-safety. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  8. Where is Glyphosate Banned? Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/where-is-glyphosate-banned/. Published July 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  9. Judge Overrides California State Warning Label of Glyphosate Pesticide as Probable Carcinogen Under Proposition 65. Center for Food Safety. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6053/judge-overrides-california-state-warning-label-of-glyphosate-pesticide-as-probable-carcinogen-under-proposition-65. Published June 24, 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  10. Zhang L, Rana I, Shaffer RM, Taioli E, Sheppard L. Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides and risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A meta-analysis and supporting evidence. Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1383574218300887. Published February 10, 2019. Accessed October 4, 2020.

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