No California Cancer Warning Required On Roundup Weed Killer Labels, Court Rules

Consumer GoodsLegal News

On Monday, a U.S. federal appeals court blocked the state of California from requiring a cancer warning label on items that contain the compound glyphosate, including the most popular agricultural and landscaping product, Roundup Weed & Grass Killer. 

The ruling comes despite more than 100,000 Roundup lawsuits against Bayer AG, which acquired Roundup maker, Monsanto, in 2018, for $63 billion. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other cancers, including leukemia and brain cancer. 

Some research studies back the plaintiff’s claims. For example, a meta-analysis review from the University of Washington (UW) concluded that there was a 40 percent greater risk of contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with heavy exposure to glyphosate. 

An article summarizing the results quotes the senior author of the UW study, Lianne Sheppard, a professor in the UW departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Biostatistics. Sheppard said, “Our analysis focused on providing the best possible answer to the question of whether or not glyphosate is carcinogenic. As a result of this research, I am even more convinced that it is.”

Despite the UW finding and the 2015 decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to reclassify glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans, other regulatory agencies have not found the compound to cause cancer. 

This is why the judge in the case declared that California’s warning label would be at odds with the majority of regulatory findings. In fact, according to a Reuters report, the judge ruled that the 2015 decision alone did not support California’s requirement to label glyphosate products with the term “known to the state of California to cause cancer.”

Thus far, Bayer AG has been ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages in the first three Roundup trials. The company is appealing those decisions, however, recent reports say that the company will set aside some $10 billion to settle future cases

California initially declared in 2017 that all products containing glyphosate would carry cancer warnings by July 2018. As a result, Monsanto and several agricultural groups sued the state to stop the requirement. 

Had the warning label for California passed, agricultural groups feared that there would have been major disruptions to the U.S. food supply chain, if farmers were no longer able to use Roundup. Farmers typically apply Roundup on genetically-engineered crops. 

In January 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-approved glyphosate for commercial use as a registered pesticide. The approval period lasts for 15 years. The Center for Food Safety and other consumer advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA for its re-approval of the controversial compound. 

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