German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer on Friday said it is planning to invest around €5 billion ($5.6 billion) over the next decade in the search for alternatives to the controversial weedkiller glyphosate.
“While glyphosate will continue to play an important role in agriculture and in Bayer’s portfolio, the company is committed to offering more choices for growers and will invest … in additional methods to combat weeds,” it said in a statement.
The weedkiller has become an increasing problem for Bayer. It is facing a flood of lawsuits in the United States because of health problems possibly linked to glyphosate.
The company has already suffered three defeats in court. Most recently, a US jury awarded a payout of 2 billion dollars to a couple that had fallen ill with cancer and blamed a glyphosate weedkiller sold by Monsanto, a US subsidiary Bayer acquired last year. The rulings are not final and Bayer is appealing them all.
The German railway company Deutsche Bahn, the largest individual buyer of glyphosate in Germany at around 65 tonnes per year, is also seeking other options. It has identified hot water, electric shocks and energy-rich UV light as possible alternatives to fight weeds on its rail network, according to the weekly WirtschaftsWoche magazine.
Deutsche Bahn would work with the German Environment Ministry to “find effective ways of operating the 33,000-kilometre rail network without glyphosate, both safely and in an environmentally friendly way,” board member Ronald Pofalla told the magazine.