Controversial weedkiller restricted to farming use in Taiwan

2019/05/14 21:17:48 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from Pixabay for illustrative purpose only

Image taken from Pixabay for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The weedkiller at the center of a lawsuit in the United States, in which a couple who claimed that Bayer AG's glyphosate-based Roundup weedicide caused their cancer was awarded US$2 billion in damages, is commonly used in Taiwan but barred from use on non-farmland, the authorities said Tuesday.

Glyphosate is a weedkiller that is heavily used in Taiwan, with 1,337 metric tons used last year, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) Deputy Director-General Chou Hui-chuan (鄒慧娟) told CNA Tuesday when replying to questions about the controversial chemical in the Bayer case.

Foreign media reported that a California jury handed down the verdict a day earlier, making it the largest U.S. jury verdict to date against the German chemical giant in litigation over glyphosate.

It was the third consecutive U.S. jury verdict against the company over the chemical, which Bayer acquired as part of its US$63 billion purchase of Monsanto last year. Both the other jury verdicts were also reached in California -- one in state court and one in federal court -- the report said.

Chou said that in all three cases that Bayer lost, the weedkiller was not used on farmland but applied on campuses and residential areas.

Citing Taiwan's Agro-pesticides Management Act, Chou said that agricultural pesticides are only allowed for farming use in the nation. In addition, all legally licensed agro-pesticides in use have undergone strict toxicology assessments.

"As long as they are used in accordance with approved usage guidelines and on the correct scale, they pose no safety concerns," she said.

Also, glyphosate is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the "E" category in terms of carcinogenicity, meaning that there is no evidence that its use causes cancer in humans, Chou noted.

Her remarks came in the wake of a local media report citing BAPHIQ Director-General Feng Hai-tung (馮海東) as saying that the bureau will not ban the chemical from use on farmland, but urges farmers to apply it legally and to wear proper protective clothing and equipment while using it.

The bureau also hopes that farmers will gradually reduce their use of glyphosate, Feng said in the report.

While the California jury found that the producer of Roundup failed to warn of the risk of using the herbicide, Chou said there are already regulations in Taiwan that agricultural pesticides must be labeled as hazardous and carry instructions for precautionary measures, including wearing gloves, rubber boots and a mask.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)
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