BAYER Australia has confirmed it has heard media reports of Carbone Lawyers' plan to launch action against it on the grounds that its Roundup product caused a man's cancer, but said it was yet to receive an official writ.
In a statement, Bayer Australia said it would defend any potential cases, based on the body of scientific evidence that shows that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) does not cause Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
"Glyphosate has been extensively studied globally by scientists and regulators, and results from this research confirm it is not carcinogenic," the Bayer Australia statement said.
Bayer Australia said it hoped those involved in the legal system would look at science when making decisions regarding the safety of the product.
One of the biggest complaints from the crop protection sector in regards to the massive payments awarded to Californian plaintiffs on the same grounds as the Carbone Lawyers case, that the product causes cancer, was that the jury did not have adequate understanding of the science and was swayed by emotive arguments.
Bayer's comments won backing from some within the scientific and agriculture communities.
Joshua Mylne, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, said the world was in the grips of 'glyphosate mania' and that people needed to look at how the product worked in practice.
"The overwhelming opinion of experts is that glyphosate is safe. People forget 'the dose maketh the poison'," Dr Mylne said.
He said Roundup was toxic in its concentrated form, but the diluted form used for spraying was much less so."
Dr Mylne also said people had double standards in regards to toxicity.
"One of our favourite drugs, alcohol, is a known carcinogen yet we pour it down our throats with vigour every weekend."
"If you seriously want to lower your cancer risk, keep using Roundup and stop drinking."
Ivan Kennedy, an expert in risk assessment and environmental fate of pesticides at the University of Sydney said much of the current focus on glyphosate came from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision to categorise glyphosate as a 'probable' cause of cancer, which he said was a false premise.
"IARC made a bad mistake in claiming glyphosate was a probable cause of cancer," Prof Kennedy said.
"There is no convincing evidence for this and much evidence gathered over 40 years about it as the safest herbicide known."
The ag sector has also talked up glyphosate's safety credentials.
Chair of the NSW Farmers Ag Science committee Dave Mailler said NSW Farmers has confidence in the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) as an independent, science-based regulator that governs the registration and regulation of use of agricultural chemicals in Australia.
Mr Mailler said more than 800 scientific studies and reviews, including numerous independent regulatory safety assessments, support the fact that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.
"The APVMA has concluded that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans and has determined that when used in accordance with label instructions, it is safe."
"Of course, ongoing safety assessment of any chemicals that we use is critical and that is why we have an independent APVMA.
He said farmers were frequently exposed to the product so would not want to use anything that had a proven cancer risk.
"Farmers have the most to lose if there is a health risk. In the case of glyphosate, the weight of evidence says that is safe for us to use."
However, Bayer's labelling has come under attack from other experts.
Lin Fritschi, a professor of Epidemiology within the School of Public Health at Curtin University, said the safety sheet for household sized bottles of Roundup needed to be downloaded and was not on the bottle itself.
"A strong message from this is that labelling of pesticides in Australia needs to be improved," Prof Fritschi said.
Sanchia Aranda, chief executive of the Cancer Council of Australia, said safety information needed to be easier to access.
"We would like to see safety information listed on the bottle," Prof Aranda said.
She advised people to avoid using the product if not necessary and for those using the product to protect themselves according to best practice in occupational health.