Renewed calls for Roundup ban in NZ after Bayer settles billion-dollar cancer lawsuits

The maker of the controversial weedkiller Roundup will pay thousands of people who claim it causes cancer. 

Costing German manufacturer Bayer almost US$10 billion, it has renewed calls for a ban on the product in New Zealand.

About 125,000 people have claimed the household gardening product causes blood cancer.

The company's chief executive Werner Baumann says the legal "settlement is the right action at the right time... to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end".

But he won't admit any liability or wrongdoing.

"We continue to stand strongly behind the safety and utility of our Roundup products. Roundup does not cause cancer and therefore it is not responsible for the illnesses alleged in this litigation," says Baumann.

And New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority agrees. Its review of the product in 2016 found glyphosate - the main chemical in Roundup - is unlikely to cause cancer; a ruling that's at odds with the World Health Organization.

"It's an extremely flawed assessment," says Dr John Potter, a former chief science advisor to the Ministry of Health.

Dr Potter says it's high time officials reconsider its use.  

"Luxembourg is going to ban it by the end of this year, and there are already a lot of cities in France who've banned it - we could do it locally as well as nationally."

But the Environmental Protection Authority told Newshub it won't change its stance on glyphosate products. 

Glyphosate is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the world.

In Auckland, it's the council's preferred method of vegetation control.

The Christchurch City Council reduced its use years ago but is considering bringing it back, to save money post-COVID-19. 

But Dr Potter says that could be risky.

"There is no question that it is carcinogenic in humans but it may also be toxic in other ways that we haven't yet fully explored." 

Juries have already found Roundup contributed to one US man's Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma but Bayer will defend its product in three other major lawsuits.