It appeared that California was about to become the first state to require popular weed killer Roundup to have a label that states it is known to cause cancer. But a US judge in the state blocked the requirement, noting that the warning is false and misleading because most regulators have concluded there is insufficient evidence that the main ingredient in the product is a carcinogen.
US District Judge William Shubb in February 2018 issued a preliminary injunction in a Roundup lawsuit that challenged California’s decision in 2017 to list glyphosate as a cancer causing chemical. The listing initiated a warning label requirement that would have required Roundup to have a warning label in July 2018.
At this time,. Glyphosate is not limited by the EPA and has been used in the US since 1974 to kill many types of weeds, while not damaging crops and other plants. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is based in France, recently classified the chemical as a probable carcinogen.
That is what caused the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to put glyphosate on its list of cancer-causing substances.
The judge stated that a ‘reasonable consumer’ would fail to understand that a chemical known to cause cancer where only a single health organization determined that the chemical causes cancer. On the evidence Shubb saw in the court, the warning that was being required in California for glyphosate did not seem to be factually accurate because it seemed to deliver a message that the carcinogenicity of the substance was an absolute fact.
A spokesperson for California’s office of environmental health hazard assessment pointed out that the judge did not block California from putting the chemical on its cancer-causing list, but only from requiring the warning label at this time.
Sam Delson said that the office was pleased that the glyphosate listing is still in effect, and their office thinks their actions were within the law. Delson also noted that the office had not made a decision on whether the ruling would be appealed.
The ruling was handed down in a lawsuit that was filed by the national wheat and corn growers associations, state agriculture and several business organizations in Missouri, Iowa and North Dakota, as well as a regional organization that represents sellers of herbicides ini Arizona, California and Hawaii. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit also included Monsanto, based in St. Louis, which produces Roundup.
According to Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, each regulatory body around the globe has looked at glyphosate and has determined it is safe for use. There is no available product that matches glyphosate with a similar environmental and health profile.
Most glyphosate is sprayed on tens of millions of acres of soy and corn in the Midwest each year.
But growers in California also regularly apply it to more than 200 crops covering four million acres. That includes 1.5 million acres of almonds, which makes it one of the most common herbicides in the country, according to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation, which is a branch of the California EPA.
Environmental Groups Critical of Ruling
According to the popular environmental website EcoWatch, it is surprising that a single judge in a single state was able to change the law and obscure the potential cancer-causing effects of glyphosate from people in California and also from people across the country.
Environmentalists critical of the decision are asking if the judge and other stakeholders do not want consumers to know what they are eating? Doesn’t it make sense to better inform the public of cancer causing chemicals in some foods? They argue that it is a matter of vital public interest that the chemical has been shown in some clinical studies to be genotoxic, neurotoxic, and an endocrine disruptor, which may lead to mental illness and higher levels of depression.
These environmentalist sources claim that the judge did not properly consider all of the evidence that was in front of him. He noted in his ruling that the required warning for glyphosate was not shown to be accurate and uncontroversial. He cited most other agencies that stated the chemical was not dangerous. According to Ecowatch, this is not the case.
Many health and regulatory agencies in Scotland, Spain, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Denmark and Canada have banned the substance.
Others have imposed severe restrictions on its use, or have issued statements that they are going to ban it because of concerns about cancer.
Ecowatch claims that Moms Across America and the National Health Federation have both filed an Amicus brief that has evidence about the dangers of the chemical, but this evidence does not appear to have been considered.
The impact of the above ruling, Ecowatch adds, is that unless there is more legal action taken, consumers will never see warning labels on food that informs them that their food contains glyphosate herbicide. Activists and non profit groups that have done tests for glyphosate will be unable to hold many food corporations accountable and to sue them for failing to label their products.
Environmentalists believe that yet again, big companies are influencing the decisions and regulatory bodies, and activists wonder what it will take to protect the public from the dangers of toxic chemicals. It will take consumers getting better informed and putting pressure on their government for action to be taken.
- Cancer Warning Glyphosate. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ecowatch.com/cancer-warning-glyphosate-2540852295.html
- Glyphosate Prop. 65. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-glyphosate-prop65-story.html
- California Lawsuit Help. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.weedkillercrisis.com/lawsuits/california-roundup-cancer-help/
- Judge Blocks Cancer Warning Label Roundup California. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2018/02/27/judge-blocks-cancer-warning-label-roundup-california/378275002/