By David Garcia and Adriana Barrera, Reuters

A Mexican judge has sided with Bayer AG in a legal challenge to a government plan to prohibit glyphosate, according to the ruling seen by Reuters, providing temporary relief from a looming ban on the widely used herbicide.

Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and crop science company that acquired Monsanto in 2018, is one of the world's leading makers of glyphosate as part of its Roundup brand weed-killer.

The April 14 ruling, which is not publicly available, argues that the inability to use glyphosate risks negatively "affecting agricultural production and as a result, food security and sovereignty" that could force Mexico to import more corn.

In a statement to Reuters, Bayer defended the safety record of glyphosate, stressing that the legal case is ongoing and it awaits a definitive resolution.

The office of Judge Francisco Rebolledo, who issued the ruling, did not answer calls seeking comment.

While regulators worldwide have determined glyphosate to be safe, Bayer agreed in June, 2020, to settle nearly 100,000 U.S. lawsuits for $9.6 billion, while denying claims that Roundup caused cancer. In February, 2021, it struck a $2 billion settlement to resolve future legal claims that Roundup causes cancer. 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador issued a decree late last year that seeks to completely ban the herbicide by 2024, joining several other governments that have sought to restrict its use, including Germany. He has described the chemical as toxic.

"Glyphosate is safe and hundreds of scientific studies support that," the company said in the statement, citing its more than four-decade track record in Mexico.

If made permanent, the ruling could exempt Bayer's glyphosate permits, which were filed as Monsanto, from the decree.

The spokesman for Mexico's president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.