By Chris Adams

For farmers, fighting weeds is a matter of deploying the right tools.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, two experts from Bayer’s Crop Science division gave an overview of the why and how of weed and pest control. Shannon Hauf and William Reeves described the challenges farmers face in battling the organisms damaging their crops, as well as the challenges Bayer itself faces over lawsuits involving the herbicide glyphosate.

As for the farmers, they’re facing challenges ranging from a changing climate that is introducing new weeds to battle; to highly uncertain regulatory and political environments; to increased demand for food despite dwindling arable land.

The key, Hauf said, was helping “integrate all those tools that farmers have at their disposable” to attack weeks and pests.

One of those is glyphosate, a wide-spectrum herbicide under attack for potential health impacts from its use. Marketed under the brand Roundup by Monsanto – and now part of Bayer – glyphosate has been targeted by lawsuits worldwide by consumers who said they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after its use. In 2019, a California jury awarded plaintiffs $2 billion in one case, although a judge later reduced that.

Reeves gave Bayer’s perspective on the glyphosate cases, including the company’s response to the ongoing civil cases and appeals involving it. While one body – the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer – has said glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” regulators in North American and Europe have not agreed.

“This has been the uniform pattern we have seen around the world – all the regulators have seen the data and say, ‘This does not cause cancer,’ ” Reeves said. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, he added, “stands alone in that conclusion.”