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US jury's $2 bn award against Roundup unlikely to hurt India glyphosate biz

Rajesh Bhayani/Mumbai 14 May 19 | 04:50 PM

A jury in California on Monday ordered Bayer-owned Monsanto to pay $2 billion to a couple who had complained about a company-made herbicide known as  glyphosate -- a widely used weed killer soild across the world and India as Roundup. 

Experts say as of now the US judgment will not have any impact on the estimated Rs 750-1,000 crore market (30 million litres) in India for this herbicide, as it has been approved by regulators across the world as ‘not carcinogenic to humans’.

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However, according to a Reuters report on the California Jury’s ruling, “This was the third consecutive US jury verdict against the company in litigation over the chemical, which Bayer acquired as a part of its $63-billion purchase of Monsanto last year. Both verdicts also came in California -- one in a state court and another in a federal court."

Local juries are taking note of the alledged ill-impact of the chemical, though regulators like the US Environmental Protection Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and others have found that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic for humans. In India, too, such concerns have not yet emerged and the herbicide is widely used to kill unwanted grass, especially annual broadleaf weeds.

It is used mainly for crops like tea, sorghum, wheat, maize, soybean, sunflower, and cotton. It is used in farming, forestry, public spaces, gardens, parks and in aquatic environments. 

According to the details of the California case, Mr and Mrs Pilliod claimed that Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused them cancer. 

A spokesperson for the global lifesciences major said, “Bayer is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal against the verdict in this case, which conflicts directly with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s interim registration review decision released last month." The company reiterated that Glyphosate is not carcinogenic to humans.

In India's 30 million litre Glyphosate market, 90 players compete with 70 brands. Monsanto’s Roundup is one of them. Ram Kaundinya, former global CEO of Advanta seeds says, “This is an important, but unfortunate judgment. It will be a long time before we hear the last judgment in the Glyphosate matter in the US as there are more than 13,000 cases and there will be appeals against judgments. But, Glyphosate has been in use for more than 40 years across the world. Based on LD50 and other data, it was always considered very safe to humans and environment."

Glyphosate was originally registered for non-crop uses till it was approved for use on some genetically modified (GM) crops in 1996 in the Americas.

On the impact of the judgment on India, Kaundilya said, “Our use is very less at present -- only about 30 million litres annually of 36 per cent concentration. It is a low-growth market. I don't think the US judgement has any impact on the Glyphosate market in India. I am sure India's regulators will review all the data generated in the country to determine the safety of the chemical for large scale use."

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