Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Bayer and crop protection groups are criticizing a decision by Vietnam to ban the use of glyphosate in the country, a growing market for U.S. farm goods.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said it made the decision “to protect human health, animals, the ecosystem and the environment,” according to press reports.

“We are disappointed in Vietnam’s decision to ban glyphosate, a move that will have devastating impacts on global agricultural production,” Perdue said today in a statement. “As I’ve often said, if we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, farmers worldwide need all the tools and technologies at our disposal.”

Bayer spokesperson Christi Dixon said Bayer "respects and shares in the Government of Vietnam’s interest to protect farmers and consumers alike," but that its decision "will not help to improve food security, safety or sustainability in the country.

"Importantly, Bayer is not aware of any new scientific assessment undertaken by the Government of Vietnam on which the decision is based," Dixon continued, in a statement provided to Agri-Pulse. "Reportedly, it was driven by developments in litigation taking place in the United States. This litigation does not change the overwhelming weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of glyphosate-based herbicide products.

“The decision to take a safe and effective herbicide like glyphosate out of the hands of farmers signals a detour from the great progress and advancements made by Vietnam agriculture in this young century,” CropLife Asia said. “Most discouraging in today’s decision is the process that yielded it. There were no consultations with the nation’s farmers and larger agricultural sector; no discussions with national or global experts; and no new scientific data to support taking this detour.”

Perdue said USDA has shared scientific studies with Vietnam from the Environmental Protection Agency “and other internationally recognized regulatory bodies concluding that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans. This ban flies on the face of that scientific evidence. Furthermore, Vietnam has sidestepped its obligation to notify this regulatory change to the World Trade Organization.”

At a meeting last week held by CropLife America and Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, Courtney Knupp, senior policy adviser in USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, said the U.S. was talking with Vietnam about its plans for glyphosate after the country said it was moving to ban use and importation of the product.

The decision was prompted in part by jury verdicts in California awarding more than $150 million to two men who claimed their exposure to Roundup significantly contributed to their Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The country's initial announcement was made after the second trial in California yielded an $80 million verdict for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman.

At the CropLife/RISE meeting, Knupp said a ban "would cut off a ton of trade," as Vietnam is the seventh-largest importer of U.S. ag products. She also said the decision could have repercussions through Southeast Asia, as "Vietnam is very influential in the region."

This story has been updated with Bayer's statement.

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