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Californians Not "Roundup-Ready": Citizens Triumph over Monsanto in Cancer-Causing Pesticide Listing

March 14, 2017
Center for Food Safety


March 14, 2017

Californians Not “Roundup-Ready”: Citizens Triumph over Monsanto in Cancer-Causing Pesticide Listing

Court upholds Constitutional right of Californians to protect themselves from toxic chemicals

SAN FRANCISCO— Today marked a major victory for the health and safety of Californians when a judge in the state’s Superior Court sided with citizens against agrichemical giant Monsanto. The judge denied Monsanto’s constitutional challenge against the State of California’s proposal to add glyphosate – the active ingredient in the company’s widely-used pesticide Roundup – to the state’s list of chemicals that are “known to the state of California to cause cancer” under Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”). California proposed adding glyphosate to the list after the expert agency under the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that the pesticide is a probable carcinogen.

“Today’s ruling is a huge victory for the health and well-being of Californians. Citizens deserve to know when they are being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, and no corporation should be able to keep it a secret,” said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety.

The court’s ruling is significant for setting precedent for other similar cases that seek to safeguard citizens. It holds that it is indeed constitutional for the State of California to rely on an independent expert agency to help guide its policy decisions that protect Californians and the environment. 

“Especially at a time when many of those in charge of protecting our food, water and environment are the same people who used to represent the interests of mega-corporations, state and local measures like Prop 65 are the best legal tools we have to protect ourselves, our families, and our environment from harmful chemicals like Monsanto’s glyphosate,” said Adam Keats, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety.

Center for Food Safety (CFS) intervened in the case last year in order to defend the listing of glyphosate under Proposition 65 and protect the public’s right to know when it is being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.



Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, is the most heavily used pesticide in the world, in large part due to the proliferation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops that are resistant to its proprietary herbicide Roundup. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), formed by the WHO and funded by the governments of twenty-five separate countries, concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” California subsequently issued the notice of intent to list glyphosate as a Proposition 65 chemical based on the IARC finding. Under Proposition 65, no person in the course of doing business may knowingly or intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving a clear and reasonable warning, and the discharge of such chemical into a source of drinking water is prohibited.

Monsanto had filed the lawsuit against California, arguing that it was unconstitutional for California to list glyphosate based on the expert international agency’s conclusion. The Court rejected this, stating: “the voters determined that there should be a list of cancer-causing chemicals and substances, and the legislature enacted Labor Code section 6382 in order to allow a respected international scientific agency, the IARC to perform the complex and highly technical fact-finding task of determining which specific substances should be on the list.”

CFS has been heavily involved with regulation of glyphosate. CFS was one of the first public interest organizations to raise awareness about how the use of glyphosate in Roundup Ready crop systems fosters herbicide-resistant weeds and increased the use of the herbicide, and has repeatedly sought to prevent the planting and approval of glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops through federal litigation.

Additional Materials:

Glyphosate and Cancer Risk: Frequently Asked Questions

Alternet: “Monsanto Is Suing California for Trying to Inform People That Roundup Causes Cancer”


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