In many ways, the state of California prompted much of the debate surrounding glyphosate, the main ingredient in weedkiller Roundup. In January 2016, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) defended its decision to require the herbicide’s maker Monsanto to warn consumers about the potential cancer risk. A state judge ruled against Monsanto in the case, clearing the way for California to require the company to place a label on its cash-cow product warning of the possible cancer threat.

The European Union is still struggling with the possibility. Farmers Guardian reports a special European Parliament committee was created last month to investigate glyphosate’s authorization procedure and will deliver a final report later this year with its recommendations on further extending its license past the five years it was granted at the end of 2017. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently determined glyphosate was not associated with a cancer risk, the debate doesn’t appear to truly be over in the United States either.

Monsanto, in conjunction with several agricultural organizations representing corn, soy and wheat farmers, filed suit in November 2017 against the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, its director Lauren Zeise, and Xavier Becerra, the state’s attorney general at the time, to stop them from “mandating false, misleading, and highly controversial cancer warnings concerning the herbicide glyphosate,” according to the complaint. Reuters reported at the beginning of last month 11 U.S. states have opted to support Monsanto in the suit against California.

The organizations supporting the legislation include the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Corn Growers Association, the United States Durum Growers Association, the Western Plant Health Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Iowa Soybean Association, the South Dakota Agri-Business Association, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Associated Industries of Missouri and the Agribusiness Association of Iowa.

Cal/EPA is not backing down from its decision, maintaining Proposition 65 makes it illegal for businesses to expose state residents to known carcinogens without a warning. The plaintiffs counter no definite link between glyphosate and cancer exists, making California’s decision to require a label misleading and a violation of the First Amendment.

California based its decision on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeling glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic.” In its evaluation, the IARC notes the EPA classified glyphosate as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 1985 based on the presence of tumors found in mice and only changed its stance after a “re-evaluation” of those results. It determined “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experiment animals” exists based on that study and other more recent ones. It also found evidence to suggest glyphosate can cause DNA and chromosomal damage to human cells.

Lawsuits around the country allege the link between longterm use of Roundup and the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). As the cases proceed, we will likely continue to see evidence of Monsanto trying to cover its efforts to benefit at the risk of public health.

Beasley Allen
Farmers Guardian
Lexis Legal News

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