In the latest blow to German-based conglomerate Bayer, the government of Germany itself has now announced that it will begin phasing out allowed uses of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the controversial herbicide Roundup.
Under the plan, all glyphosate use will be banned by the end of 2023, when its European license expires. Since Europe accounts for only 10 percent of Roundup sales, this ban is not likely to significantly affect Bayer's bottom line. It is nonetheless a symbolic blow against the beleaguered company, which already has lost three significant cancer lawsuits over the past year and faces over 18,400 more in the U.S.
Germany's southern neighbor, Austria, instituted a complete ban on Roundup earlier this year. Stubbornly continuing the ongoing defense of glyphosate, head of Bayer Crop Sciences Liam Condon issued the following press statement: “We disagree with the German government’s decision to ban glyphosate by the end of 2023. The ruling ignores decades of scientific judgment from independent regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe when used properly.”
Bayer Crop Sciences has an ally in VCI, the European chemical association. The organization's managing director, Utz Tillmann, says that the Merkel government's decision was premature, coming before a ruling by the European Union – which does not allow its members to make unilateral decisions. Tillman says that Germany's decision to ban glyphosate represents “a massive loss of certainty for planning,” adding that “Business must be able to count on reliable conditions.”
Nonetheless, Germany's proposed ban on glyphosate is yet one more manifestation of increasing opposition to the chemical among Europeans. The E.U. may respond by deciding not to renew its license when they vote on the issue in three more years. In addition to Austria's total ban and Germany's phase-out, a number of local city governments have taken action to stop the use of glyphosate. At a Berlin press conference, Germany's Minister of the Environment, Svenja Schulze, predicted, “I don't expect that there will be a majority anywhere in the E.U. for glyphosate anywhere in the E.U.”
Germany's plan would begin by prohibiting the use of glyphosate in public parks and gardens while imposing restrictions on agricultural use.
Bayer's takeover of Monsanto is proving to be the worst business decision in the recent history of capitalism. The company's value today is less than the purchase price it paid for Monsanto, as shares have fallen in value by 30 percent since the takeover. There were rumors last month that Bayer was considering an $8 billion settlement, which was later proven untrue. And even if it were true, some market analysts have calculated the company's glyphosate liability to be as much as $27.7 billion.