California Roundup Cancer Warning Draws Lawsuit From Monsanto, Agriculture Industry

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Monsanto and a number of groups linked to the agricultural industry have filed a lawsuit against the state of California over new rules that require label warnings regarding the potential health risks with Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers, which have been linked to reports of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers. 

The groups filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on Wednesday, seeking to stop the state from enforcing the addition of a Roundup cancer warning on products in the state, which is set to go into effect in July 2018. The lawsuit claims that the cancer warnings would be false and misleading.

On July 7, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added glyphosate to its list of cancer causing agents, known as the Proposition 65 list. The move means that Monsanto will have to include a Roundup cancel label on all products sold in the state, alerting consumers that the popular herbicide may be carcinogenic.

The cancer warnings for Roundup come after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify glyphosate as a probably human carcinogen in mid-2015, and amid increasing concerns worldwide about the link between exposure to Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other cancers.

However, Monsanto and the other plaintiffs, including the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, the Western Plant Health Association and a number of others representing agricultural interests, disagree with the IARC’s findings and say that California’s decision is not backed up by scientific facts.

The lawsuit also argues that California is violating Monsanto’s First Amendment rights by compelling the company to make false and misleading statements on its products’ labels.

“Glyphosate has been recognized as a safe herbicide for over 40 years by EPA, regulators across the globe, and even OEHHA,” the lawsuit claims. “Because of its immense popularity, glyphosate is one of the most extensively studied herbicides in the world and has been subject to hundreds of safety studies by the world’s most prominent and authoritative sources.”

The lawsuit does not mention that many of those studies, and the findings by the EPA, are now suspect.

On August 1, a cache of internal memos and e-mails, being referred to as the “Monsanto Papers”, were released to the public as part of the on-going litigation involving cases filed by hundreds of farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and other regular users of the weedkiller, which alleges that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the potential cancer risks and importance of taking safety precautions while spraying the weedkiller.

In addition to documents showing Monsanto working with the EPA, and its own scientists raising concerns about whether glyphosate can cause cancer, the documents also indicated that Monsanto has edited and ghostwritten both supposedly independent research papers which heralded glyphosate’s safety, and meddled with the content of federal safety reviews.

Roundup Litigation

Across the U.S., several hundred product liability lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and others regularly exposed to Roundup, alleging that they may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancer if warnings had been provided by Monsanto.

Since October 2016, all federal Roundup lawsuits have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.

As part of the coordinated litigation, it is expected that a small group of bellwether trials will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases. However, if Monsanto fails to reach Roundup settlements or another resolution for the failure to warn cases, hundreds of individual lawsuits may eventually be remanded back to the federal courts where they were originally filed for an separate trial dates.

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