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French officials indicate that they may vote to block the reauthorization of glyphosate-based weed killers in the European Union, due to concerns of a link between cancer and exposure to Roundup and similar herbicides.
The European Union is set to vote on October 4, over whether to extend the licenses granting approval for glyphosate use in the EU for another 10 years. However, a “no” vote from France could derail the effort and potentially result in a glyphosate ban.
A qualified majority of member EU states must vote in agreement on the license renewal, but in the past, the vote has been a razor’s edge decision, because of abstentions by Germany and France. Some observers indicate that if France votes against the renewal due to the glyphosate risks, that could be enough for the Monsanto-based weed killers to lose their license throughout Europe.
France and a number of other European countries became alarmed over the safety of weedkillers like Roundup following a report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in mid-2015.
The move has sparked world-wide concerns about why Monsanto failed to provide warnings and recommend safety precautions for users of Roundup, and sparked the avalanche of recent product liability lawsuits filed in courts throughout the United States.
A petition to ban Roundup and similar glyphosate weedkillers has gathered more than one million signatures from EU citizens from all 28 member states since the beginning of the year. It calls for a ban of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as well as reforms to the EU’s pesticide approval process and calls for targets to reduce the use of pesticide across the European Union.
The European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) has contradicted the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe. However, several countries in the EU have moved to ban glyphosate use, despite the European Commission’s decision to extend the license for glyphosate use for 12 to 18 months in late June 2016.
That extension will run out by the end of the year, requiring another vote, and the safety of glyphosate is still heavily debated, with many independent scientists from the EU and the U.S. warning regulators to take the IARC’s cancer concerns seriously.
U.S. Roundup Litigation
Monsanto now faces hundreds of Round lawsuits in the United States, each raising similar allegations that a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancers may have been avoided if Monsanto had provided adequate warnings, and not taken steps to falsify data and mislead about the safety of the weedkiller.
Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal Roundup cases in October 2016, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As part of the coordinated MDL proceedings, Judge Chhabria has previously determined that the Roundup litigation will be bifurcated, first addressing general causation about the link between the widely used weedkiller and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.
Following resolution of any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup settlement or other resolution for the litigation is not reached during the first phase of discovery, it is expected that Judge Chhabria will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the lawsuits.