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Judge Overrides California State Warning Label of Glyphosate Pesticide as Probable Carcinogen Under Proposition 65

Ruling allows Monsanto to keep consumers in the dark about the hazards of glyphosate

June 24, 2020
Center for Food Safety


San Francisco, CA—This week, a federal judge sided with Bayer/Monsanto in its case against the State of California, affirming that Bayer/Monsanto does not need to warn California residents that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup pesticides, is a chemical known to cause cancer under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (commonly known as Proposition 65). Enacted by voter initiative back in 1986, California's landmark Proposition 65 requires a warning label of all chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and prohibits their discharge into drinking waters of the state. Bayer/Monsanto filed the federal lawsuit to escape its duty to warn consumers after it lost its 2018 lawsuit challenging California's finding that glyphosate should be listed as a carcinogenic chemical. Center for Food Safety (CFS) intervened in the earlier case, defending the listing of glyphosate as a carcinogen and the public's right to know when it is being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals

"This ruling is a huge loss for all Californians as the ruling overturns our right to protect ourselves and our environment from unnecessary and unwanted exposure to the dangerous chemical, glyphosate," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at Center for Food Safety. 

Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide that is widely used in agriculture, parks, home gardens, and residential landscapes. It 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 glyphosate. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic." California subsequently listed glyphosate as a carcinogenic 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. The discharge of such a chemical into a source of drinking water is prohibited. The earlier 2018 court ruling upheld California's determination to list glyphosate as a Proposition 65 chemical based on the IARC finding, but today's decision renders that listing meaningless by holding that Bayer/Monsanto need not provide warning to consumers despite the State's determination.

"All California consumers have the right to know that glyphosate is considered a probable carcinogen, and Proposition 65 ensures that the public obtains that knowledge," said Sylvia Wu, Senior Attorney at CFS. "We are disappointed that the court ruling will now allow Bayer/Monsanto to keep the public in the dark about potential hazards from its toxic glyphosate pesticide."

CFS, a public interest organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment from the hazards of industrial agriculture, has publicized the multiple hazards of glyphosate for over a decade. 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 threatens monarch butterflies by eradicating milkweed plants in farm fields. CFS has repeatedly sought to prevent the planting and approval of glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops through federal litigation. CFS's members include farmers and residents of California who are at risk of being exposed to glyphosate use near their homes and sources of drinking water. CFS previously published a fact sheet specifically addressing the IARC determination and informing its members of the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate.

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