Monsanto filed a lawsuit in California on Thursday in continued defense of the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in herbicide, Roundup. The suit is intended to keep glyphosate from being added to the state’s list of known cancer-causing chemicals under Proposition 65.
Reuters reported that the company filed the suit against the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in California state court to prevent glyphosate from being added to the list, which is designed to inform residents of the risks of different chemicals, including cancer-causing chemicals. OEHHA announced glyphosate's planned addition to the list in September, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) noted its probable link to cancer in March.
If glyphosate were to be added to the list, Monsanto would be required to provide a warning to consumers that the chemical is a known carcinogen. Monsanto claims this is a violation of its First Amendment rights and, according to the complaint filed, "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.”
Monsanto’s dispute cites numerous studies touting the safety of the chemical, including a 2007 study by OEHHA that concluded that the chemical was unlikely to be linked to cancer. Other studies claiming that glyphosate does not merit its spot on the list of cancer-causing chemicals include a 2015 comprehensive review by the European Food Safety Authority. The EFSA's conclusion that glyphosate was safe was criticized by both the IARC and almost 100 senior scientists in Europe, who signed an open letter to European health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in November 2015, urging EU authorities to ignore this opinion when making glyphosate regulations for Europe.
Monsanto business director Gary Philpotts has said that, “IARC’s March 2015 opinion is an outlier in this body of scientific evidence. However, IARC’s opinion fits with anti-chemical campaigners’ views and marketing needs; we expect these groups to continue to invest in communications seeking to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about glyphosate safety.”
In addition, Phil Miller, Monsanto's vice president of regulatory affairs, maintains that the IARC classification is both inconsistent with other research and "not a sound basis for any regulatory action.
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Pamela Coleman, PhD from Farm and Food Policy and an Analyst for the Cornucopia Institute disagrees. “Contrary to the current widely-held misconception that glyphosate is relatively harmless to humans, the available evidence shows that glyphosate may rather be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.” It has been linked to widespread mitochondrial dysfunction in cells, a problem linked to a long list of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s and obesity, according to the Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization.
As recently as October, California’s OEHHA was accepting public comments about its intention to list glyphosate in accordance with Prop 65, receiving about 8,000 comments with regards to this decision including comments from Monsanto.
Roundup is used by farmers around the world, particularly with genetically modified corn and soy, designed to tolerate the chemical, and generated $4.8 billion in fiscal revenue for Monsanto in 2015.
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Herbicide spraying image via Shutterstock