There have been two significant legal developments this week related to glyphosate use.
First, a Ninth Circuit justice rejected California’s local labeling requirements under Proposition 65 for glyphosate, issuing a permanent injunction.
A day later, Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, announced it will settle 125,000 lawsuits that allege its popular herbicide caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
California’s Proposition 65 has come under fire before in the court system. The state lists 900-some substances as causing problems from cancer to birth defects, and requires any product containing them to include warning labels.
Among substances on the list is acrylamide, a potential carcinogen formed in trace amounts whenever food products like potatoes are fried or, in the case of coffee beans, roasted.
As a result, California had been requiring a warning label on coffee beans. Eventually, through litigation, this was clarified to say that roasting coffee beans is not considered significantly carcinogenic by any federal regulatory agency.
Glyphosate, meanwhile, was listed as cancer-causing by California in 2017.
That would have triggered a warning label, but Ninth Circuit Justice William Shubb issued a preliminary injunction against that in 2018, pointing out the wide disparity between California’s position and that of most other regulatory bodies in the world.
“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 when apparently all other regulatory and governmental bodies have found the opposite,” he said at the time.
Developments since have not changed his mind, the judge said this week in issuing the permanent injunction.
National Wheat Growers Association was the lead plaintiff in the case.
“From the beginning we made our case based on facts and science and this is a great win for wheat growers and farmers across the United States,” said Dave Milligan, NAWG President and Cass City, Michigan wheat farmer. “Backed by more than forty years of safety data, glyphosate is one of the most studied and closely monitored herbicides in the world.”
NAWG was joined by a variety of other farm groups in the suit, including the U.S. Durum Growers, National Corn Growers Association, and the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.
““This has been an ongoing battle, and we’re pleased Judge Shubb agreed the science does not support the claim Proposition 65 is trying to make,” NDGGA President Dennis Haugen said in a media release. “The use of safe herbicides and pesticides is vital to sustaining American agriculture, and we’re hoping this decision will set a standard for practical policy going forward.”
Haugen was recently named to the EPA’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Committee.
“It’s crucial we communicate to the EPA the effects not having access to certain chemicals would have on our fields so they understand how to best regulate these products in a way that’s good for the environment and farmers,” he said.
Bayer’s announcement, meanwhile, follows recent verdicts against it in three separate cases, all of which the company said are under appeal, and that it will continue to defend.
The three cases won’t be covered by the settlement, which itself does not admit to any liability or wrongdoing, the company said, but simply acknowledges the significant costs and risks associated with defending thousands of suits.
The company continues to argue its product does not cause cancer if it is used properly, according to the label, and said it will continue to sell the popular herbicide.