EPA to Withdraw Controversial 2020 Roundup Risk Assessment That Said Glyphosate Did Not Cause Cancer

New risk assessment about the link between glyphosate in Roundup and cancer will not be completed until 2026.

Federal environmental officials are withdrawing a controversial 2020 risk assessment on the link between Roundup and cancer, which involved the controversial active ingredient in the weed killer, glyphosate.

The prior determination by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggested that there was no evidence glyphosate may cause cancer, leading to outrage in the scientific community and among consumer advocacy organizations. As a result a lawsuit was filed against the agency in March 2020, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined earlier this year that the agency had failed to follow its own guidelines in issuing the prior glyphosate assessment, calling for the agency to reassess the risk by October 1.

Last week, the EPA told the court it would no longer fight the lawsuit, and is withdrawing the assessment because it cannot meet the court-imposed deadline, leaving glyphosate without a cancer risk assessment until it comes up again for review in 2026.

EPA officials stressed that the agency has not changed it scientific findings, and that withdrawal of the assessment does not mean regulators now believe glyphosate causes cancer.

Concerns About Link Between Roundup and Cancer

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and other weed killers widely marketed to consumers throughout the U.S.

The prior EPA glyphosate safety review faced sharp criticism, as it seemed to ignore warnings issued by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015, which decided to classify glyphosate as a probable cancer-causing agent.

Following that warning, Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary have faced thousands of Roundup lawsuits brought by former users of the weed killer who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and internal documents were uncovered that found the companies provided false and misleading information to consumers and regulators for years, which suggested glyphosate does not cause cancer.

The EPA now says it cannot complete the reassessment until 2026, due to the complexity of the issues involved. The agency says it will not meet the court-ordered October 1 deadline, which allowed only 106 days to complete the reassessment. Instead, the agency says it needs four more years to complete the review.

An EPA assessment that finds glyphosate to be a cancer-causing agent and threat to the environment could result in new restrictions, or even Roundup recalls, depending on the severity of the findings.

September 2022 Roundup Lawsuit Update

The decision to withdraw the prior glyphosate risk assessment comes after a number of juries have found that Monsanto failed to warn consumers about link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Following a string of massive losses in Roundup cases that went to trial in 2018 and 2019, which highlighted evidence that the weed killer manufacturer ghost-wrote studies and manipulated data reviewed by federal regulators, Bayer has been engaging in an effort to settle the litigation over the past two years.

The company has reported it will pay more than $11.6 billion in Roundup settlements. However, finalization of the agreements has been slow, with many plaintiffs rejecting their individual offers and new claims continuing to be filed by individuals diagnosed with cancer following prior use of the weed killer.

To limit its future liability over Roundup, Bayer recently announced plans to remove the active ingredient glyphosate from Roundup weed killers sold to U.S. residential customers by 2023. The products would still be sold under the Roundup label, but would use a different active ingredient, which has not been linked to a risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, glyphosate would still be used in products sold to agricultural businesses and farmers, and in product sold in other parts of the world, Bayer officials said.

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr Creative Commons

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