The world’s most widely-used herbicide, glyphosate, has been in the headlines a lot lately. It’s not good news for its manufacturer, Monsanto, who is currently trying to ink a deal with Syngenta.
Glyphosate is used in Roundup, a weed killer used to treat Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand the synthetic chemical. The chemical company is now facing headwinds, as countries issue bans on the product, restrict its use after the World Health Organization declared it a “probable carcinogen” and halt aerial spraying.
Monsanto continues to face headwinds, not only in the field but in financing: the company was recently downgraded amid earnings disappointments and concerns around its capital structure after a series of debt financings were used for share buybacks.
A quick wrap up of the headlines around this controversial product shows that it may be on the verge of changing from an icon into a relic.
According to National Geographic, “introduced commercially by Monsanto in 1974, glyphosate kills weeds by blocking proteins essential to plant growth…more than 1.4 billion pounds (are) applied per year. Its use skyrocketed after seeds were genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical…. Between 1987 and 2012, annual U.S. farm use grew from less than 11 million pounds to nearly 300 million pounds.
If the concerns around glyphosate prove to be true, it represents a huge liability for the company.
Is Monsanto looking to divest of its glyphosate division through a Syngenta acquisition? Only time will tell, but this is what they are currently up against:
- Last month, an international agency declared glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the popular product Roundup, a “probable human carcinogen.”
- Glyphosate is not included in the U.S. government’s testing of food for pesticide residues or the monitoring of chemicals in human blood and tissues.
- In Europe, there are similar concerns: “If one of the world’s wealthiest nations (Germany) does not have sufficient resources to conduct its own independent evaluations of toxicological evidence we might well ask what are the practices in regulatory institutions elsewhere?”
- There is no information on how much people are exposed to from using it in their yards, living near farms or eating foods from treated fields.
- Glyphosate was found in about 70 percent of rainfall samples.
- 90 percent of 300 soybean samples contained traces of glyphosate.
- The weed killer also has made recent headlines for its widespread use on genetically modified seeds and research that links it to antibiotics resistance and hormone disruption.
- Several national governments are planning to restrict its use.
- Some school districts are talking about banning it.
- Bermuda Suspends Glyphosate Ridden Roundup Indefinitely
- Columbia President Calls for Suspension of Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate
- German Retail Giant Removes Glyphosate (Monsanto Roundup) from 350 Stores
These are just the headlines from the last few weeks. In October 2014, Monsanto said on an earnings’ call that they anticipated some “headwinds” when it came to glyphosate and their Roundup product line.
It appears to be blowing into a perfect storm.
Chemical Reactions: Glyphosate and the Policies of Chemical Safety http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2015/may/13/chemical-reactions-glyphosate-and-the-politics-of-chemical-safety?CMP=share_btn_fb
National Geographic: What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150422-glyphosate-roundup-herbicide-weeds/
German Retail Giant Removes Glyphosate (Monsanto Roundup) from 350 Stores http://www.globalresearch.ca/german-retail-giant-removes-glyphosate-monsanto-roundup-from-350-stores/5448934
Columbia President Calls for Suspension of Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate http://www.thestar.com.my/News/World/2015/05/10/Colombia-president-to-call-for-suspension-of-coca-plant-spraying/
Bermuda Suspends Glyphosate Ridden Roundup Indefinitely http://www.globalresearch.ca/bermuda-suspends-glyphosate-ridden-monsanto-roundup-indefinitely/5449207