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Economy

Bayer defends its weed killer against Kenya cancer claims

Roundup
Roundup. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

German multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer Bayer says its controversial herbicide is safe for use, but may be harmful when farmers fail to follow the user instructions.

Bayer’s managing director Laurent Perrier said science has proved “beyond doubt” that the active ingredient of Roundup, its contested herbicide- glyphosate, “is not associated with the cancer risks.”

“Roundup is one of the best chemicals that we have and science has proved that it is safe for use,” said Mr Perrier Thursday when he was unveiled as new managing director for Bayer, which recently acquired rival Monsanto.

He, however, said the company was ready to dialogue with any organisation that is opposed to the use of the chemical with the view to finding a way forward in the future.

“It will not be a good decision to ban the use of Roundup in Kenya, but we are open for dialogue with anyone in regard to the use of this chemical,” he said yesterday. In May, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay over $2bn (Sh200 billion) to a couple that got cancer after using Roundup, marking the third and largest verdict against the company over the herbicide.

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In Kenya, government ministries have openly differed over the use the weed killer with the Ministry of Health telling the Senate that the chemical could be risky to farmers as its Agriculture counterpart defends its use.

Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told senators that research had established there was possible human health effect in exposure to the product used widely around the world.

Her Agriculture counterpart Hamadi Boga, however, maintained that scientific evidence had not linked the glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer in humans under normal use. “In view of the already established possible health effect from use of glyphosate, the Ministry recommends removal of such herbicides to safeguard the public against risks of exposure,” said Ms Mochache.

An umbrella organisation of local scientists has opposed calls for banning of glyphosate, saying it has no link to cancer. Kenya National Academy of Science said so far there has been no tangible evidence to condemn the herbicide for causing cancer. “We still need to do a lot of research before reaching the point of banning this Glyphosate from the market. As it stands now, there is no need for stopping the use of this technology,” said Prof Michieka.

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