French court revokes Bayer weed killer approval

A French court has revoked the approval for one of Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based weed killer because it may cause cancer, Reuters reports.

The decision made by the administrative court in Lyon, France on 14 January comes as the German chemical group faces some 9,300 US lawsuits by people who claim that glyphosate, the chemical used in Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro brand of weed killers, causes cancer.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupation Health and Safety (ANSES), which approved the weed killer in 2017, said it would review the court decision, which was effective immediately.

The French administrative court said that despite the EU’s approval of glyphosate-based products, scientific studies and animal testing had shown that Bayer’s Roundup Pro 360 weedkiller was potentially carcinogenic to humans and was likely to be harmful to human reproduction and aquatic organisms.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for US$65bn last year, has repeatedly pointed to scientific evidence and regulations establishing that glyphosate is safe and said it was considering its legal options.

Bernstein Research said the financial impact of the ban in France was likely be limited, given it concerned one product in a market for glyphosate-based weedkillers worth around 40 million euros. However, more cases could result, it said.

Glyphosate has been controversial in the EU, with member states granting a five-year extension to the license for the weed killer in 2017 after two years of bitter debate.

Despite the extension, some countries – including France and Germany – are moving forward with their own restrictions on the use of the chemical, which is off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Syngenta and DowDuPont’s Corteva Agriscience.