'On the Offensive' Against Monsanto, France Removes Roundup from Store Shelves
'On the Offensive' Against Monsanto, France Removes Roundup from Store Shelves
By Nadia Prupis / commondreams.org

France will cease over-the-counter sales of agrochemical giant Monsanto's weedkiller brand Roundup, following a recent United Nations report that found the active ingredient, glyphosate, was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

It's the newest development in the growing international movement against Monsanto in general and Roundup in particular. French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal announced on Sunday that she had instructed garden centers to stop putting the herbicide on the shelves of their self-service aisles, stating, "France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides."

Colombian officials made similar statements in May, when they put a halt to U.S.-backed toxic fumigation of coca fields in the country, noting that a previous ruling by the Colombian Supreme Court called for an end to the aerial spraying program if health concerns over glyphosate were discovered.

They were. As Common Dreams reported in March, the UN's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is based in France, found in its study that:

"[L]imited evidence" exists to show the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans and additional "convincing evidence" that it can cause other forms of cancer in both rats and mice. Researchers noted that glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the bodies of those who work most with it.

The new policy reportedly came in response to French consumer protection groupConsommation Logement Cadre de vie (CLCV) asking French and European officials to prohibit the sale of glyphosate-based products to amateur gardeners, according to Agence France-Presse.

In addition to its ban on Roundup, the health ministry also said it would only allow the sale of phytosanitary products, which are used to control plant diseases, through "intermediary or a certified vendor" starting January 2018.

Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, told Common Dreams that it was important to note that France only banned the use of Roundup for homeowners, rather than the agricultural sector. "CFS supports France's prudent decision to prohibit homeowner use of glyphosate, given both the World Health Organization's finding that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans and the deceptive claims about its supposed safety," Freese said. "However, the great majority of glyphosate use is in agriculture, driven by genetically engineered, glyphosate-resistant crops. 'Next-generation' GE crops resistant to 2,4-D, dicamba and other chemicals will dramatically increase use of multiple herbicides.  We must move agriculture away from pesticide-intensive GMOs towards sustainable weed control that eliminates or greatly reduced use of weed-killers."

Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group, added that the U.S. should take its cues from France. "By banning glyphosate from garden centers, the French government is taking steps to protect its citizens," she told Common Dreams. "In the U.S., most glyphosate is sprayed on farmland—roughly 280 million pounds annually.  Blanketing genetically engineered [GMO] crops with glyphosate accounts for the vast majority of the toxic herbicide’s agricultural use. But without requiring labels on GMO foods similar to labeling laws in France and 63 other countries around the world, the U.S. leaves its consumers confused as to whether or not they’re buying GMO foods."

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'On the Offensive' Against Monsanto, France Removes Roundup from Store Shelves