Geographies of glyphosate (i.e. Roundup) regulation in the wake of international regulatory failure

Authors: Becky Mansfield*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: chemical geographies, pesticides, glyphosate, health, regulation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup—is the world’s most used herbicide, with use skyrocketing in the global South. Yet it remains lightly regulated around the world. This is even though in 2015 the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” and studies since then have continued to demonstrate serious health effects. In addition, headline-grabbing lawsuits in the United States forced Monsanto (now owned by the German firm Bayer) to release troves of papers that make it clear that it has known about adverse health effects for decades. Despite this, both US and EU regulatory agencies continue to declare glyphosate to be non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, and generally safe for use, and countries around the world have followed suit. In the wake of these international regulatory failures, other entities such as school districts, cities, and states/provinces seek to control—even ban—glyphosate. This talk first provides an overview of some of the international controversy over glyphosate’s effects and the forms that deregulation has taken (e.g. allowing increased residue on crops). Turning to the multi-scalar regulations that have emerged in the wake, we find that while they are diverse in their locations, scope, and aims, a disproportionate number of them are in the global North and protect urban residents (e.g. bans on use in city parks). This leaves farmworkers around the world unprotected, even though the vast majority of glyphosate is used agriculturally. Initial findings also suggest that pesticide activists hope to use local bans as leverage for broader regulatory action.

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