Monsanto Claims Glyphosate Cancer Warnings Weighed By California May Be Illegal

Monsanto is asking that California withdraw plans to require cancer warnings for all herbicides containing glyphosate, including the popular weed killer Roundup, indicating that such a warning would be illegal. 

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) indicated in September that it plans to list glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent, which would require new Roundup warnings in the state.

Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides, which was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s. It contains the herbicide glyphosate, which has been linked to concerns over the past year that it may expose farm workers and others in the agricultural industry to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.

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The OEHHA proposal came after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed Roundup and other gylsphosate herbicides as potential human carcinogens in March 2015.

One of the forms of cancer associated with glyphosate by the IARC study is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, causing swollen lymph nodes, chest and abdominal pain, respiratory problems, fever, fatigue and weight loss. There are a variety of types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some less aggressive and easier to treat, while some forms are extremely aggressive, and can kill in a matter of months without quick diagnosis and treatment.

Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the concerns about the link between Roundup and cancer, maintaining that the IARC’s conclusions were agenda-driven and based on “junk science.” The manufacturer has said it is convening its own independent panel to review the cancer risks of Roundup.

To date, more than 8,000 comments have been submitted to OEHHA regarding the proposal, including those by Monsanto. The agricultural company alleges that the proposal is illegal because it does not take all valid data into consideration. Both an independent panel created by Monsanto and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have released studies claiming that the IARC report is incorrect and that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Nearly 100 scientists from around the world recently wrote a letter to the EFSA over its decision to disregard the IARC warnings, paving the way for the herbicide to be relicensed for use in Europe with nearly no restrictions.

The scientists agree that the EFSA’s findings that glyphosate did not cause cancer were not credible and not based on the evidence. The group also questioned whether the EFSA was vulnerable to industry influence and called on the European Commission to disregard the EFSA’s findings..

In the U.S., a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto since the IARC ruling, both as individual claims bought on behalf of farm workers exposed to high levels of glyphosate and consumer class action lawsuits. In addition, a growing number of states, cities, and countries worldwide have enacted full or partial glyphosate bans to protect citizens from exposure.

Correction: A previous version of the story indicated that the Notice of Intent to add glyphosate to the Prop 65 list had a comment period lasting until January 25. This was incorrect and applied to another proposal involving Prop 65. The comment period for the Notice of Intent ended in October.


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