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A number of environmental groups and consumer advocates are petitioning federal regulators to revoke the licensing for glyphosate, the active ingredient in the controversial weedkiller Roundup, which would effectively ban its use in the United States due to the risk that exposure may lead to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other health problems.
The Friends of the Earth issued a press release on June 26, announcing that more than 149,000 public comments have been filed that call for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny renewal for a glyphosate license in the U.S.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a “Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision” on glyphosate in April 2019, reiterating an earlier conclusion that the herbicide does not appear to increase the risk of cancer. The decision also answered public comments submitted since the agency’s original determination, defending its evaluation methods.
The EPA is taking public comment on the review until the July 5, and has faced sharp criticism over the handling of the weedkiller.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate is likely a cancer-causing agent. In particular, the IARC report linked the side effects of Roundupand other glyphosate-based herbicides with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In September 2016, the EPA maintaining that the herbicide was safe and not a cancer-causing agent, and the agency has continued to defend that decision in this latest review decision. However, there is increasing evidence that the regulatory decision has been improperly influenced by Monsanto, who manufactures and sells the controversial weedkiller.
“The science is clear about glyphosate. This dangerous herbicide causes serious health risks, including cancer, and threatens our environment,” Jason Davidson, a Food and Agriculture Campaign Associate with Friends of the Earth, said in the press release. “EPA must do its job and ban this toxic pesticide instead of prioritizing corporate profits.”
The groups note that the EPA’s own Office of Research and Development determined in 2015 that the agency failed to use proper protocols in determining glyphosate was safe.
The position of the EPA has also been brought into question following the release of documents during ongoing litigation over Roundup, known as the “Monsanto Papers”, which many say show an inappropriate relationship between Monsanto and EPA, as well European regulators. In some instances, EPA personnel have boasted about squashing glyphosate safety reviews in the past.
At one point, former EPA official Jess Rowland reassured Monsanto that there would be no pesticide review for glyphosate, saying he should “get a medal” for protecting the company’s product, according to documents revealed as part of the ongoing litigation.
Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary, which was acquired one year ago, now face more than 15,000 Roundup lawsuits brought by farmers, landscapers, groundskeepers and other users of the controversial glyphosate-based weedkiller, alleging that the manufacturer withheld information for years about the known risk of cancer.
While Bayer continues to maintain that glyphosate is safe, following high-profile losses in the first three cases to go to trial, where juries awarded massive damages to individuals diagnosed with cancer following Roundup exposure, pressure is mounting on the company to reach settlements for Roundup claims.
State and federal courts in California have held three trials over the last year, to determine whether the companies were liable for plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Bayer and Monsanto have lost all three.
A second trial was held in federal court earlier this year, resulting in a verdict of $80 million, despite a format that was widely thought to heavily favor the manufacturer.
Finally, a third trial concluded in May with a landmark $2 billion verdict in California state court, after considering evidence in a lawsuit brought by a husband and wife who were each diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following use of Roundup.
In the federal court system, all claims are currently centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). However, most of the cases are filed in state courts nationwide.
If Bayer fails to reach fair settlements for Roundup claims, the company is expected to face a steady stream of additional trials in the coming months and years, with some analysts suggesting that additional losses will just further compound the massive liability the company faces.