With hundreds of lawsuits pending and hundreds of millions already awarded in settlements for persons who developed cancer after working with the herbicide Roundup, some concerned farmers are wondering why the chemical has not been banned in Barbados
“Roundup is a systemic herbicide and a very effective one but everywhere else in the world is banning this thing because it is linked to cancer. You just had one man getting over $200 million in a settlement and yet we still have this dangerous thing still on our shelves,” one farmer told Barbados TODAY who queried why the Ministry of Agriculture has not moved to have it pulled here.
The farmer, a member of a concerned group that did not want to be identified until they make official representation to Government on the matter, was referring to the case of the California groundskeeper, Dwayne Lee Johnson, who, last August, won a massive $289 million civil suit against Bayer’s Monsanto, the makers of the product. He claimed that the weedkiller Roundup caused his cancer. Last November a judge reduced that amount to $78 million. In March this year another California man was awarded $80 million in the San Francisco federal court, after his lawyers successfully argued that his use of Roundup on his 56-acre property for two decades, was a “substantial factor” in causing his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
In March 2015, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides such as Roundup and Touchdown, is a “probable” cause of cancer. Last August, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines announced that it is suspending the importation of the weedicides Roundup, Touchdown and any chemical containing the active ingredient glyphosate.
In a statement last October, the ministry of agriculture there revealed that it was acting on the advice of its pesticide board.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that the product is still sold and can be imported into Barbados by applying for a $25 import licence through the Ministry of Agriculture’s website. A member of the Barbados Pesticide Board of Control, who did not want to be identified, also revealed that both Roundup and Touchdown are on the current list of registered chemicals. Efforts to reach the board’s chairman, Michael James, were unsuccessful. However, CEO of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul, told Barbados TODAY that his organisation had spoken to farmers on the issue and several of them expressed concern that the alternatives were not as effective.
“From the perspective of the farmers that we have spoken to, they have not identified any alternatives to Roundup. Based on the sentiments I have been getting from the farming community, I am not so sure how strongly they feel on the matter. On the other hand, there is a responsibility on the part of Government to protect the public,” said Paul.
The BAS head also contended that some in the farming community are of the view that as long as one wears protective clothing and use the recommended dosage, the products present little threat to users’ health.
“There are those farmers who believe that as long as you use the product within the recommended amounts and use things like protective clothing and respirators when applying, they would be alright. I don’t know and it is difficult to give a position because there is no unanimity moving forward on this issue. I can only say what the farmers’ position is and I cannot say what Government should do but ultimately they would have to make the final decision,” Paul stressed.