In 2017, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) won its battle to block a European ban of glyphosate-based herbicides. As an important weapon in this effort, the organization presented findings from studies concluding that such a ban would render “severe impacts” on farming and the environment.
The ban was thwarted—it was hard to argue against objective, scientific research.
Unfortunately, the research was not objective.
LobbyControl, a German activist group, revealed in December that Monsanto funded two studies promoting the value of glyphosate. Monsanto produces Roundup, the world’s most heavily used glyphosate-based weed killer, making any research they fund potentially biased and highly suspect. The likely possibility that funding bias influenced the information presented in these studies can be supported by a history of this occurrence, particularly when involving matters of chemical toxicity.
For this reason, representatives from LobbyControl denounced the studies and framed the use of this research in a clear case of public interest to be below-the-belt “opaque lobbying,” according to The Guardian, who reported on this topic on March 12, 2020. LobbyControl further suggested that the Monsanto-funded data supporting glyphosate’s benefits was exceptionally high, and these numbers formed the basis for the arguments surrounding the extreme losses that a ban on the herbicide would impose on farming and the environment.
Some of the conclusions from the studies in question include the argument that without glyphosate, which eliminates the need to plow, greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 25 percent. The studies also project a 20-percent drop in the production of rapeseed.
These were the studies that NFU used—as did the industry lobbyists Glyphosate Renewal Group (formerly called the Glyphosate Task Force) and the Crop Protection Association—in their efforts to keep Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides on the shelves, just as the EU was considering renewal for the glyphosate license.
The research went up against a petition calling for the ban, a formal request that 1.2 million European citizens signed. The impact of the studies cannot be understated.
At the end of the day, the EU renewed the pesticide license for another five years.