California cannot force Monsanto and other companies to place warning labels on products containing glyphosate, a federal judge ruled Monday, delivering a major victory to Monsanto and a collection of agricultural groups.

“It is inherently misleading for a warning to state that a chemical is known to the state of California to cause cancer based on the finding of one organization (which … only found that substance is probably carcinogenic), when apparently all other regulatory and governmental bodies have found the opposite, including the EPA, which is one of the bodies California law expressly relies on in determining whether a chemical causes cancer,” U.S. District Judge William Shubb said in granting a preliminary injunction to prevent the labeling requirement.

The state listed glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as a chemical “known” to the state to cause cancer, last July, basing its decision under the Proposition 65 law on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 finding that the chemical is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The state was planning on requiring the warning labels by this July, once it establishes the level of glyphosate that would trigger the label requirement.

But Shubb said in his opinion that “given the heavy weight of evidence in the record that glyphosate is not in fact known to cause cancer, the required warning is factually inaccurate and controversial.”   

“A reasonable consumer would not understand that a substance is ‘known to cause cancer’ where only one health organization had found that the substance in question causes cancer and virtually all other government agencies and health organizations that have reviewed studies on the chemical had found there was no evidence that it caused cancer,” Shubb said. “Under these facts, the message that glyphosate is known to cause cancer is misleading at best.”

“Farmers work tirelessly to put food on America’s tables, and glyphosate is a vital tool that growers have trusted to provide safe, affordable food,”  Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, lead plaintiff in the case, said in a news release

“Every regulatory body in the world that has reviewed glyphosate has found it safe for use and no available product matches glyphosate with a comparable health and environmental safety profile,” Goule said. Shubb’s granting of a preliminary injunction, he said, “is the first step in our efforts to prevent California from forcing farmers, growers and manufacturers to place false and misleading labels on agricultural products. California’s erroneous Prop 65 listing of glyphosate is not based on data, facts or science and we look forward to continuing to make our case to the court.”

Shubb did not order California to remove glyphosate from the Prop 65 list, saying that was protected government speech.

In addition to NAWG, other plaintiffs are the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the Agricultural Retailers Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, Iowa Soybean Association, Monsanto, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CropLife America, Missouri Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, South Dakota Agri-Business Association and United States Durum Growers Association. Eleven states filed amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Center for Environmental Health filed amicus briefs in support of the state.

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