A Californian jury which awarded $290 million to a school groundskeeper who blamed his terminal cancer on exposure to glyphosate lacked scientific expertise, according to the NFU.
The union’s deputy president, Guy Smith, made the remarks shortly after UK DIY giant Homebase confirmed it would be reviewing the safety of the weedkillers it sells in light of the US judgement.
Both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have concluded glyphosate is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans’.
EFSA also subsequently found the chemical did not have endocrine disrupting properties following a highly politicised wrangle over its re-authorisation for use in the EU.
Mr Smith said: “Last year, the relevant authorities in Europe, ECHA and EFSA, reviewed all the evidence and deemed glyphosate safe to use, just as it has been safe to use for the last forty years.
“EFSA and ECHA are comprised of scientific experts in toxicology, whereas the Californian jury of lay-people in this case are not.
“We see no reason why this US court case should stop UK farmers from using this safe herbicide which delivers environmental benefits by reducing emissions from extra cultivations while keeping soil structure in good order.”
The Soil Association has taken a very different view of the ruling, describing it as a ‘dramatic blow’ to the future use of glyphosate.
Emma Hockridge, the group’s head of policy, said: “[This court case] confirms it is sensible for UK farmers to be thinking about how they will manage without glyphosate, as organic farmers already do.
“We need to urgently change our systems of weed control to stop relying on herbicides.”
The court case against Monsanto, which has recently been taken over by Bayer, centred on allegations that company executives sought favourable scientific analyses and helped to ghost write research – claims the company strongly denies.
But the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the only body in the world to declare glyphosate a probable carcinogen, has also been accused of cherry-picking data to support its findings.