Sir, – Considering the great contribution glyphosate has made to increasing crop yields, improving food security of supply, reducing fuel use per hectare, reducing toxic weed seeds from cereal crops and generally making agriculture easier; I find it bizarre that a Californian court fined $289 million in damages against Monsanto.

I think the possible increased risk of certain cancers due to pesticide exposure needs to be compared to the risks from other factors, not against an unachievable zero ideal. Cancer Research UK website has a section on 'Causes of Cancer' which has a long list of more significant risks than the government approved use of agrochemicals.

I would have guessed that if the government approves the use of a pesticide then it should be able to overrule a judge? Isn't a judge supposed to decide whether the guidelines have been followed? Fair enough if the judge wants to humbly suggest altering the guidelines.

Who was on the jury? Was it a panel of experts in the subject or just your average citizen? I read an organic growers website which admitted conventional control of couch grass on heavy land could require six cultivation passes in dry weather. Is that acceptable? I would recommend the website, 'Genetic Literacy Project (Science not ideology)' which has several articles on the subject of glyphosate. Article of August 21, 2018 by Marc Brazeau, 'Farmers consider a world without glyphosate – and it’s less than ideal'

It says: "Different herbicides are used for pre-emergent control and post-emergent control. They each have a different mode of action (the process by which they kill plants). Some are selective — they are effective on some weeds, but not others, and others are broad spectrum, they kill nearly any plant the come in contact with. Almost none are as effective as Roundup or lower in toxicity. While it would great to see more farmers practicing more robust integrated pest management for weed control, forcing that by taking away the safest, most effective tool in the toolbox is unlikely to improve results in the way one might wish.

Here are the chronic NOELs for a few of the herbicides that would most likely fill in behind glyphosate if it were pulled from the market. A NOEL refers to No Observable Effect Level, that is, the dose at which exposure in an animal study had no effect.

Fluthiacet-methyl – 0.1 mg/kg/day

Paraquat – 1.25 mg/kg/day

Diquat – 0.22 mg/kg/day

Glufosinate – 2 mg/kg

Atrazine – 1.8 mg/kg/day (NOAEL)

Studies of glyphosate lasting up to two years, have been conducted with rats, dogs, mice, and rabbits, and with few exceptions no effects were observed. For example, in a chronic feeding study with rats, no toxic effects were observed in rats given doses as high as 400 mg/kg/day. Also, no toxic effects were observed in a chronic feeding study with dogs fed up to 500 mg/kg/day, the highest dose tested.

So it takes 4000 times larger a dose of glyphosate to produce an effect in lab animals than fluthiacet-methyl and 222 time as much glyphosate as atrazine to produce an effect.

Alexander Brownlee

Illieston Castle Steadings

Broxburn