(Updates with Bayer statement)
By Kim Richters and Andrea Thomas
Germany dealt another blow to Bayer AG's (BAYN.XE) controversial Roundup herbicide Wednesday, saying it planned a complete ban on the key ingredient glyphosate from the end of 2023 as part of an environmental protection program.
The government said the plan would help address concerns about the decreasing number and variety of insects in Germany. The ban, part of a program agreed by the government on Wednesday, aims to protect insects by eliminating the use of glyphosate, which reduces insects' food source by killing plants.
The controversial herbicide is best known for being used in the weedkiller Roundup, a product produced by Monsanto, the U.S. chemical company that Bayer acquired in 2018. The companies are facing lawsuits from more than 18,000 plaintiffs alleging that the product causes cancer.
The planned ban is the latest in a string of restrictions on the herbicide. While Austria banned the chemical in July, a number of other countries, including France and Colombia, have also placed restrictions on its use. However, it is approved until the end of 2022 in Europe.
In response to the German cabinet's agreement, Bayer said that it disagreed with the government's decision to completely ban the herbicide.
"The ruling ignores decades of scientific judgment from independent regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe when used properly," said Liam Condon, member of the Bayer management board and president of its crop science division.
"Regardless of a ban of glyphosate farmers will still have to control weeds to ensure their harvests. Therefore the amount of forage for insects will not change whatever method is used," the company said. According to Bayer, the sales share of glyphosate in Germany is less than 5% of its German crop-science unit.
As part of the program, the German government will make 100 million euros ($109.5 million) available annually for insect protection and research efforts. Germany also plans to reduce the use of glyphosate significantly in the period leading up to the ban.
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