OMAHA (DTN) -- Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development banned the import of glyphosate on Wednesday after a series of legal defeats for Bayer in U.S. civil lawsuits alleging the weed killer caused cancer.
Vietnam Director of Plant Protection Hoang Trung said during a news conference on Wednesday the action was taken because glyphosate affects the environment and is harmful to human health.
At the end of March, a California jury awarded $80 million to a man with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who had used glyphosate at an animal refuge for nearly 30 years. Last year, another jury in the state awarded $287 million to a groundskeeper with cancer who used the chemical. In all, there are 11,200 lawsuits aimed at glyphosate.
Charla Lord, media communications, corporate engagement and preparedness for Bayer, said Vietnam's decision is likely to hurt both farmers and consumers.
"Unfortunately, today's decision banning glyphosate will not help to improve food security, safety or sustainability in the country," she said. "Importantly, Bayer is not aware of any new scientific assessment undertaken by the government of Vietnam on which the decision is based. Reportedly, it was driven by developments in litigation taking place in the United States.
"This litigation does not change the overwhelming weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of glyphosate-based herbicide products."
Lord said EPA, the European Food Safety Authority, as well as regulatory agencies in Canada, Japan, Australia, Korea, Brazil and other countries, "routinely review all approved pesticide products and have consistently reaffirmed" that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
"We have seen the unfortunate impact of denying farmers access to such an essential tool," she said.
Sri Lanka, for example, imposed a glyphosate ban in 2015. The ban was reversed in 2018 after local farmers became vocal about the economic effects to their businesses.
In a news release, the Vietnam government said glyphosate is not needed because there are 54 other "safe" herbicide active ingredients. Glyphosate products already in circulation in Vietnam are not affected by the ban. Vietnam imports the vast majority of its agriculture chemicals from China.
"In particular, individual organizations have also actively registered for herbicides containing new-generation active ingredients, which are bio-effective and safe to replace glyphosate," the Vietnam's MARD said in a news release.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the decision will have "devastating impacts" on agricultural production worldwide.
"This ban flies in the face of that scientific evidence," Perdue said in a statement on Thursday.
"Vietnam also needs to look at the potential ramifications for its own farmers. In addition to the immediate effect of slowing the development of Vietnamese agricultural production, there's the very real risk that Vietnam's farmers will turn to unregulated, illegal chemical products in place of glyphosate."
Agricultural crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate have greatly expanded the use of the chemistry since 1996. Glyphosate also is used in forestry, urban, lawn and garden applications. Bayer also had glyphosate in its portfolio before acquiring Monsanto.
That broad use has drawn worldwide attention to the herbicide and to its safety.
Though glyphosate was developed by Monsanto, it is off-patent and sold by many agriculture companies as one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It came to market in 1974 under Monsanto's Roundup label for control of perennial and annual weeds in non-crop and industrial areas. In 2018, California regulators failed in an attempt to label glyphosate products as "known to cause cancer."
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, concluded glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic."
IARC came under fire as a result of its broad declarations about what is carcinogenic in summary reports the IARC calls "monographs." The agency, for instance, drew scorn in 2015 for a monograph classifying processed red meats such as bacon as carcinogenic.
The IARC's glyphosate finding set off a series of reactions. The EPA released and retracted a report refuting the IARC's conclusion in 2015.
At the end of December 2017, the EPA announced in its draft risk assessment of glyphosate that the herbicide is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
At the end of November 2017, the European Union approved a five-year extension of glyphosate's use.
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN
© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.