Sask agriculture group calls $289M Monsanto payout 'a head-scratcher'

Saskatchewan farmers will continue to use glyphosate on their crops, despite a $289-million ruling against Monsanto in California.

'100 per cent of traditional agriculture' in province uses glyphosates, says association president

A farmer harvests chickpeas near Assiniboia, Sask. (Courtesy Paul Dornstauder)

Saskatchewan farmers will continue to use glyphosate on their crops, despite a $289-million ruling against Monsanto in California.

"It's used right across Saskatchewan — one of our most used tools for weed control," said Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis.

He estimates "100 per cent" of traditional, non-organic growers use the chemical.

A California jury ordered Monsanto to pay almost $300 million last week after DeWayne Johnson sued the weed giant, saying his terminal cancer was caused by years of work as a groundskeeper spraying Roundup up to 30 times a year.

The World Health Organization has gone back and forth on the issue of whether or not the chemical is carcinogenic to humans.

Tool for farmers

Lewis calls the verdict "a bit of a head scratcher," because he believes glyphosate is harmless when used correctly.

"We wear rubber gloves, rubber boots, coveralls," he said

"We spray glyphosate 20 days a year and we're careful to limit our exposure. It's all just part of being a farmer."

Health Canada, too, has deemed the chemical safe for use in agriculture. The final re-evaluation of products containing glyphosate was published in 2017 and found the chemical poses "acceptable" risks to human health and the environment when the product is used as instructed on the label.

Todd Lewis is the president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan. (Submitted/APAS)

The regulatory body will continue to register such products, but requires labels to provide additional guidance as to how to use the products safely, according to an emailed statement from the department.

Lewis stresses that glyphosate is most often sprayed on fields before crops begin to sprout.

"If you spray it on a growing crop you would kill it," he said. 

Canola, though, can be glyphosate-resistant. Lewis says those crops are sprayed long before harvest.

"It breaks down in the sunlight and disappears in a short period of time," he said.