The Trump administration stated last week it would not approve warning labels for products that contain glyphosate. This was a move aimed at California as it is fighting one of the biggest agriculture companies in the world about the chemical that is believed by some to cause cancer. (Miamiherald.com)
California currently requires warning labels on products that contain glyphosate, which is best known as the weed killer Roundup, because the International Agency for Research on Cancer has stated it is most likely carcinogenic.
The EPA has disagreed. It says its own research shows the chemical does not pose risks to humans. California has not yet enforced the warning label for Roundup up because Monsanto filed a lawsuit and a judge at the federal level blocked the warning label requirement in 2018 until the lawsuit could be resolved.
According to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, it is irresponsible to mandate labels on products that are not accurate when EPA knows there is no cancer risk. He said the EPA will not allow California’s ‘flawed program’ to make federal policy.
California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act
This law was approved by California voters in 1986. It requires the state government to list chemicals that are known to lead to cancer, as determined by groups such as EPA and IARC. The law also mandates that these companies warn customers about dangerous chemicals in their products.
Regulators in California have twice found that glyphosate did not pose a risk of cancer in drinking water. But in 2015, the IARC found glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. This would trigger a warning label under this California law.
Federal law has rules on how pesticides are to be used and how they should be labeled. States can have their own laws, but they cannot be weaker than the federal law. This is according to Brett Hartl, who is government affairs director for the CCenter for Biological Diversity.
He said it is strange for EPA to inform a state that it cannot go beyond what the federal rules are. It is sad, he said, that EPA seems to be a ‘big cheerleader’ and defender of Roundup. He argued that the organization is the Environmental Protection Agency, not the pesticide protection agency.
EPA Explains Its Position
In a letter to corporations to explain its decision, the director of EPA’s registration division in its Office of Pesticide Programs, Michael Goodis, said EPA considers adding warning labels to glyphosate to cause cancer a false and misleading statement which is not allowed under federal law.
Chandra Lord, a representative for Monsanto and its parent Bayer AG, said EPA’s statement is consistent with the conclusions based on science that were reached by the agency and top health regulators around the world for more than 40 years. She stressed that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen.
It is estimated there are 13,000 plaintiffs that have roundup cancer lawsuits against Monsanto that are related to glyphosate. Three of these personal injury lawsuits went to trail in the state of California, and the juries handed out awards in the millions of dollars in each one, but the judges on the cases later reduced the amounts.
Last May, a jury told Monsanto to pay a couple in California $2 billion after a trial where they blamed the firm’s talc product for leading to their Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Largest Glyphosate Cancer Verdict Came in California in 2018
Monsanto’s glyphosate problem made international headlines last year when a case involving a former San Francisco groundskeeper resulted in a $289 million award, later reduced to approximately $78 million. (Cnn.com)
The non hodgkins lymphoma cancer lawsuit involved Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who used Roundup for years as he sprayed the chemical on athletic fields for several years. He eventually was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, with painful, cancerous lesions all over his body. Other types of lymphoma cancer from roundup are now being discovered.
He did wear protective gear while he was spraying the chemical, but there were leaks from time to time, and his skin did get drenched from the chemical on one occasion.
In 2014, after he used glyphosate for two years, he started to get rashes and skin irrigation and he then knew something was wrong. Johnson said he had flawless skin and it was very noticeable to him and his family.
Soon he had lesions on his face and scary lesions all over his body. His doctors did not at first understand what was going on. He eventually was diagnosed with NHL. This is a blood cancer that affects the immune system and leads to major skin lesions. At times, the cancer became so painful he could not walk or be in the sun. Sometimes, it even hurt to have fabrics touch his skin.
Johnson is now having chemotherapy and he said he feels better than he has in years. Doctors say he could have two years to live.
Across the US, cancer patients who were suing Monsanto were waiting to see how Johnson’s case turned out because it may set a precedent for 12,000 other cases awaiting trial.
Johnson was the first cancer patient to sue Monsanto because in California, a patient dying of a disease can get an expedited trial.
- Monsanto Plaintiff Accepts a Lower Award. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/health/monsanto-plaintiff-accepts-lower-award/index.html
- EPA Won’t Approve Warning Labels for Roundup Chemical. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/article233712107.html