Monsanto sues California agency to stop listing of glyphosate as carcinogen

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 21, 2016 - Monsanto has fired a pre-emptive strike in an attempt to stop the state of California from adding glyphosate, aka Roundup, to its list of chemicals known . . . to cause cancer.

The placement of the world's most widely used herbicide on the Proposition 65 list, the company said in a complaint filed Jan. 21 in the Superior Court of California for Fresno County, “would cause irreparable injury to Monsanto and the public (and) would adversely affect Monsanto's reputation for manufacturing safe and reliable herbicides; would potentially result in lost sales due to consumer deselection of glyphosate-based herbicides; and would require Monsanto to spend significant sums of money to re-label and re-shelf its products.”

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The state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) wrongly relied on a determination in March by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Monsanto said. IARC is an arm of the U.N.'s World Health Organization.

But OEHHA contends that it doesn't have to make its own scientific determination. In fact, it said when it proposed to place glyphosate, parathion and malathion on the list in September that under its own regulations, it “cannot consider scientific arguments concerning the weight or quality of the evidence considered by IARC when it identified these chemicals and will not respond to such comments if they are submitted.”

Monsanto contends that by proposing to place glyphosate on the Prop 65 list, “OEHHA effectively elevated the determination of an ad hoc committee of an unelected, foreign body, which answers to no United States official (let alone any California state official), over the conclusions of its own scientific experts.”

In a news release, Monsanto alleged that “the members of the ad hoc IARC working group were hand-picked and conducted their assessment in a non-transparent process.” Further, it said that “unlike regulatory risk assessments, the IARC classification process followed non-standard procedures and selectively included and interpreted only a subset of the data actually available on glyphosate.” 

OEHHA had reached the opposite conclusion on glyphosate in 2007 when it conducted a review of the same studies as part of the process of establishing a Public Health Goal for drinking water, Monsanto said. “Based on the weight of evidence, glyphosate is judged unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans,” OEHHA said then.

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The lawsuit alleges that the Prop 65 listing process violates provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions guaranteeing due process and free speech:

“If glyphosate is added to the Proposition 65 list, Monsanto will be required to provide a ‘clear and reasonable warning' on its glyphosate-based products that states that (they) contain a chemical ‘known to the state to cause cancer.' However, OEHHA's scientific experts in fact reached the opposite conclusion -- namely, that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans.” As such, the Proposition 65 warning requirement, as applied to glyphosate, would compel Monsanto to affix false and/or misleading statements to its products. Such compelled commercial speech does not advance any legitimate or substantial government interest.”

OEHHA extended the comment period on its proposal until Oct. 20. Access some of the comments by clicking here.

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