Agrichemical giant Monsanto Company has filed a declaratory relief lawsuit against the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in Fresno Superior Court to block OEHHA’s proposed listing of Glyphosate (CAS No. 1071-83-6).
The company says it is taking legal action against the agency to prevent what it describes as a “flawed” listing of the herbicide glyphosate under Proposition 65.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the company’s market leading herbicide Roundup®.
Monsanto’s complaint argues that both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said the chemical does not cause cancer.
The complaint also argues the listing of glyphosate would violate the U.S. and California constitution because the state regulators would be ceding their regulatory authority to an unelected foreign body that is not under the oversight of any federal or state government entity.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an agency of the World Health Organization. It is also an authoritative body under Proposition 65. Certain IARC cancer listings can trigger listings under Proposition 65, depending on the level of IARC’s cancer classification.
The agency classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen at its most recent meeting in March 2015.
The company characterized IARC’s findings as “representing only one part of the body of information on which public health decisions may be based.”
According to Monsanto vice-president of regulatory affairs Phil Miller, “Glyphosate does not cause cancer, so listing glyphosate under California’s Prop 65 is not warranted scientifically and would cause unwarranted concern for con-sumers. Based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, regulatory agencies have concluded for more than 40 years that glyphosate can be used safely. The
conclusion from the IARC meeting in France was erroneous, non-transparent and based on selectively interpreted data. We are bringing this challenge forward because this intention to list is contrary to science.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 agreed that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
Carissa Cryan, the agency’s chemical review manager said, “our review concluded that this body of research does not provide evidence to show that glyphosate causes cancer, and it does not warrant any change in EPA’s cancer classi-fication for glyphosate.”
The agency had classified glyphosate as a carcinogen in 1985 but later reversed its determination. The chemical is up for review later this year.
EFSA also said last year that “Glyphosate did not present genotoxic potential and no evidence of carcinogenicity was observed in rats or mice.”
Monsanto disputes IARC’s findings, claiming the international agency “conducted their assessment in a non-transparent process. Unlike regulatory risk assessments, the IARC classification process followed non-standard procedures and selectively included and interpreted only a subset of the data actually available on glyphosate,” the company added.
Monsanto notes that OEHHA tested glyphosate in 1997 and 2007 and found it did not present a cancer risk to humans.
Monsanto lawsuit says a Prop. 65 listing would “create unfounded consumer fear, causing farmers, government agencies, and other users of glyphosate-based herbicides to switch to other products and/or processes for vegetation management that may not provide the same level of safety, effectiveness, or reliability.”
Use of glyphosate has increased dramatically in recent years, and it is now used on a variety of crops grown for consumers, including wheat, corn, soybeans, and many other staples that are consumed every day. If California adds glyphosate to the Proposition 65 list of c
arcinogens, many fruits and vegetables may require Prop. 65 warning labels.
Monsanto says requiring the warning on foods grown with Roundup, the nation’s most popular herbicide, would cause a significant loss of sales. The herbicide accounted for nearly $5 billion in revenue for Monsanto in 2015.
A Prop. 65 listing would require some municipalities to stop using glyphosate since many cities and towns have local ordinances requiring them not to use substances included on the Prop. 65 list.
Miller called for the state of California to “uphold its own science-based conclusion about glyphosate reached in 2007 and the conclusions of the U.S. EPA and all other pesticide regulators.”