A study funded by agrochemical giant Syngenta suggests that if the controversial weed killer Roundup is sprayed on crops at certain times of the day, farmers could use less of the herbicide, suggesting that farmers could save money and reduce potential harm to consumers.

Farmers in the U.S. use $5 billion of Roundup each year, nearly half of the $11 billion used worldwide. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, a chemical that has been linked to cancer. At least 18,400 people in the U.S. have filed lawsuits against Roundup maker Bayer AG (which acquired agribusiness Monsanto last year) alleging that exposure to glyphosate in Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Other studies have found that glyphosate may be harming pollinating insects like honeybees, altering the growth and reproduction of aquatic animals when it washes off into waterways, and causing antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations.

Concern about glyphosate in recent years has led many countries to either ban or restrict its use. However, glyphosate is still widely used in the U.S.

The Syngenta study, which was also supported by the United Kingdom’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, determined that seedlings were more sensitive to glyphosate in the early morning hours as opposed to dusk. By scheduling when they spray crops, farmers could use less of the chemical, the researchers from the University of Bristol said.

“This scale of glyphosate use makes strategies to enhance its utility commercially and environmentally attractive,” the researchers wrote.

Beasley Allen is investigating cases involving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma related to the commercial application of Roundup/glyphosate. For more information, contact John Tomlinson or Rhon Jones in our Toxic Torts Section.

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