The steady drumbeat from activists and anti-GMO forces has grown louder and louder over the years. Their target was always genetically-modified crops. But when they couldn’t get the anti-GMO narratives to stick, they decided to attack Round-Up. The benign herbicide is extremely effective and safe. But it’s so closely linked to the genetically-modified Round-Up Ready crops that it was an easier target.
So they started the claim that glyphosate causes cancer. It isn’t true. But falsified “studies” and bought-and-paid-for scientists were happy to say otherwise. And then came IARC. The international agency declared glyphosate, Round-Up’s active ingredient, as a probable carcinogen.
It didn’t take long after IARC’s flawed conclusion for lawsuits to fly. Over 5,000 plaintiffs sued Monsanto claiming Round-Up caused their cancer. The first ended with a plaintiff’s jury verdict in August of 2018 to the tune of millions of dollars. The second ended recently the same way: a plaintiff’s verdict in the millions. And now a French court ruled found Monsanto knowingly poisoned a farmer.
So what happens if Bayer, who purchased Monsanto, decides to stop making and distributing Round-Up?
The idea isn’t totally implausible. At some point Bayer could make the calculation that all the lawsuits are too expensive. And the best way to end it is to just stop producing Round-Up. Then all the activists can hoot and holler and revel in victory.
Well it would be an inconvenience, that’s for sure. Round-Up is safe, effective, and relatively affordable. We’ve found success growing crops bioengeenered to resist Round-Up. So we’ve increased our yields and decreased our carbon footprint. Losing this important crop-protection tool would be a blow.
But I think we’d be just fine. Other crops are bioengineered with herbicide-resistance, which could easily replace Round-Up Ready varieties. In fact, this season we’ll be planting corn and soybeans that are resistant to Round-Up and another herbicide. The seeds were more expensive, but our calculations justified it. (Note: We chose them with no regard to Bayer giving up on Round-Up.)
Also, Bayer/Monsanto is no longer the only company producing Round-Up. Round-Up is off patent. So other companies are free to produce and sell it. And, perhaps, without the stain of Monsanto, the risks of Round-Up litigation would be much lower. These other companies might not have the same problems as Bayer.
And even if somehow all bioengineered crops were banned, we would use other herbicides like we did before. We would go back to culivating. Our yields would suffer. We would produce more greenhouse gases. And it would cost more. But we would have to do it. Not because we have some joy in using chemicals. Rather, we have to protect our crops and care for them.
So, in conclusion, if Bayer made the calculation that it must stop producing Round-Up, it would be a short-lived victory for those activists. It would be quite meaningless, honestly. It would hurt farmers, the environment, and consumers. But we would adapt and move forward.
And the only thing they would’ve accomplished is limiting production of a safe, effective, and relatively affordable herbicide. Go ahead and party, friends.