Brazil judge suspends use of glyphosate herbicide

soybean plantation in Brazil
A soybean plantation in Brazil. Genetically modified soybeans that rely on glyphosate for weed control are planted across the country. (MailsonPignata/iStock/Getty Images)

Sao Paulo | Reuters – A Brazilian judge has suspended the use of products containing the agrochemical glyphosate, a herbicide widely employed for soybeans and other crops in the country.

A federal judge in Brasilia ruled on Friday that new products containing the chemical could not be registered in the country and existing registrations would be suspended within the next 30 days, until the government reevaluates their toxicity.

The decision, which also applies to the insecticide abamectin and the fungicide thiram, could be subject to multiple appeals.

The ruling particularly affects Monsanto Co, which markets a glyphosate-resistant, genetically modified type of soybean that is planted on a large scale in Brazil. Monsanto is now a unit of Bayer AG, following a $62.5 billion takeover of the U.S. seed producer in June.

Monsanto said in a statement that Brazilian farmers have depended on glyphosate for more than 40 years and that reviews worldwide have concluded the herbicide can be used safely. The company said it respects the procedures used by Brazilian health authority Anvisa to ensure the chemicals safe use.

Last month, a federal judge in the United States ruled that hundreds of lawsuits against Monsanto by cancer survivors or families of those who died could proceed to trial, finding there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases that blame the company’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer for the disease.

Certain glyphosate-resistant corn and cotton strains have also been authorized in Brazil.

“I think the judge is wrong and that the decision will be revoked somehow,” said director Luiz Lourenço of Brazilian agribusiness industry association Abag. “It is impossible to do agriculture without these products.”

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans, driven largely by growing demand from China.

– Reporting by Roberto Samora and Jose Roberto Gomes Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago.

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