Sydney’s city council reviews use of Bayer’s Roundup weed killer amid cancer fears

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Sydney’s city council said on Friday it was reviewing its weed management, which included the use of Bayer AG’s Roundup, after other councils in Australia began cutting ties with the product amid concerns about possible links to cancer.

The council, which covers the city’s business center, was “reviewing (its) weed management methods and investigating other technologies”, a spokeswoman told Reuters in an email, a day after a strike by workers at a nearby council pressured it into trialing an alternative weedkiller.

The City of Sydney council currently used Roundup “as a last resort … when non-pesticide methods such as hand-weeding and mulching have been ineffective”, and began testing alternative products in late 2018, the spokeswoman added.

Bayer says Roundup is safe and backed by several regulatory bodies, despite research that found its main ingredient glyphosate was probably carcinogenic.

The German company has been hit by massive compensation payouts in the United States this year, over claims its product caused cancer, which have seen its shareprice to plummet.

The prospect of Sydney council rethinking its ties to Roundup, a flagship product of U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto Co until a buyout from Bayer last year, shows the pressure that grassroots campaigns and lawsuits are putting on governments about the product even as regulators declare it safe.

“Because there’s a lot of emotion around it, local agencies may be moved to make a decision that’s made based on placating the general public rather than the available science,” said Ian Musgrave, a molecular pharmacologist and toxicologist at University of Adelaide.

“We should be making decisions on safety based on actual science, not based on our fear or dismay of megacorporations.”

Earlier this week, Blacktown City Council in Sydney’s west agreed to trial an alternative to Roundup after a worker strike over the product left 40,000 garbage bins unemptied.

Another four councils around Sydney previously quit using Roundup over possible links to cancer.

Last month, an Australian gardener filed the country’s first lawsuit against Bayer, accusing Monsanto of causing him harm from exposure to glyphosate via decades of using Roundup.

A Bayer spokesman said the company “encourages constructive dialogue with our stakeholders to build a broader trust in science”.

The company had published “extensive research which supports our products’ safety” and was “committed to ensuring our customers continue to have access to these critical products as part of their sustainable agricultural activities”.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Michael Perry

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