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Glyphosate Part I: What Is It and Why Should I Care?

Glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, has dominated headlines over the last year due to the thousands of lawsuits brought by consumers who claim that the chemical causes cancer. As glyphosate is used in almost all of the sugar beets grown in the US, the concern over the presence of glyphosate in the US sugar supply is taking center stage. Sugaright wants to help our customers manage this risk by increasing your understanding of a dynamic and complex topic AND by offering a glyphosate-free option for your liquid sugar purchases.

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate (Roundup) is one of the world’s most widely used broad-spectrum herbicides, accounting for roughly 25 percent of the world herbicide market. Glyphosate herbicide is widely utilized in agriculture because it is a cost-effective, easy to use compound that kills weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses competing with crops. In fact almost all of the soybeans, corn and beet sugar grown in the United States have been genetically modified to resist glyphosate. Farmers spray it on fields so the crops do not have to compete with weeds. Some also use it as a pre-harvest treatment to dry out crops and make them easier to harvest.

While glyphosate products are mostly used in agriculture, it is also used to control unwanted weed growth in forestry, gardening and in non-cultivated places, like industrial areas and along highways.

Is Glyphosate Safe?

Monsanto Says "Yes".

Since the Roundup weed killer first entered the market, Monsanto has denied claims that Roundup causes cancer, telling farmers and agricultural workers for decades that Roundup is safe.

The Scientists Say "Maybe".

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—a subdivision of the World Health Organization—first classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. Two years later, in December 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a risk assessment classifying glyphosate as "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." A majority of regulators around the world have since sided with EPA, including multiple European agencies, Australia and New Zealand. While California had initially placed glyphosate on its Prop 65 list of chemicals "known to the state to cause cancer" in July 2017 just before EPA released its risk assessment, a federal court temporarily prohibited the state from requiring companies to place Prop 65 warning labels on foods that may contain traces of glyphosate in February 2018, finding that aside from IARC, "almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer."

The federal court presiding over the Roundup litigation has also weighed in on the controversy, calling the testimony of plaintiffs' scientific experts "shaky," but ultimately admissible. Legal action is still pending.

A Court Says "NO"!

Although the scientific and regulatory communities have disagreed about the alleged carcinogenicity of glyphosate for years, the debate drew little attention from the general public until August 2018, when a California state jury hit Monsanto with a $289 million verdict after a groundskeeper claimed that his exposure to Roundup® weed-killer caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. While the court later slashed the punitive damages award by $211 million, it ultimately left the jury's findings intact and the reduction in damages has done little to quell the media attention on glyphosate.

Next Week…..Glyphosates Part II: Consumers: Confused AND Concerned

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