Groups Argue EPA Failed on Glyphosate

Environmental, Ag Worker Groups: EPA Ignored Own Findings on Glyphosate Effects

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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Farmworker and environmental groups filed an opening brief in a case challenging EPA's registration approval of glyphosate. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- In reapproving registration of glyphosate in January 2020, EPA ignored its own scientific finding that the herbicide may harm nearly all endangered species, environmental and farmworker groups argue in an opening brief last week in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

The Rural Coalition, Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Farmworker Association of Florida, Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety filed a petition for review back in March.

"Given the exponential increase in glyphosate use since its last registration, careful analysis of glyphosate's safety to people who use it and the environment is long overdue," the groups said in their opening brief.

"Rather than rigorously assess the registration based on current science, EPA rubber-stamped Monsanto's assurance of safety, contrary to its statutory duties."

The groups asked the court to vacate EPA's decision.

They allege EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and violated the agency's duties in the Endangered Species Act by not consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before issuing the decision.

"Petitioners' members include the people who everyday work to bring food to America's tables," the brief said. "They are the frontline of exposure and possible health effects from glyphosate. EPA failed these essential workers by concluding there are no health risks without even assessing workers' exposure to glyphosate and its formulations. When absorbed through the skin, glyphosate enters the bloodstream to cause further harms, such as increasing cancer risk."

When it comes to endangered species, the groups said, the agency did not conduct a full ESA review.

"Here, EPA's cost-benefit analysis consists of a single sentence, where EPA completely fails to weigh the substantial costs of registration: among them, costs to farmers from the epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds and costs to wildlife exposed to spraying, especially crucial pollinators and iconic Monarchs," the brief said.

"EPA knows with certainty that glyphosate will likely adversely affect no less than 1,676 species of birds, mammals, fish, plants, amphibians, insects and more."

In a statement to DTN, Bayer said the body of science continues to support the use of glyphosate.

"The EPA's January 2020 interim registration review decision on glyphosate adds to the overwhelming consensus among leading expert health regulators worldwide for more than 40 years that these products can be used safely," Bayer said.

"In addition to the EPA, the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency, and the leading health authorities in Germany, Australia, Korea, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and elsewhere continue to conclude that glyphosate products are safe when used as directed. Glyphosate-based herbicides are among the most thoroughly studied products of their kind, which is a major reason why farmers around the world continue to rely on these products not only for effective weed control, but also to minimize tillage farming practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve more land for native habitats, and provide enough food to meet the needs of a growing population worldwide."

The herbicide's registration review, which started in 2009, is likely to push into 2021, according to EPA's website.

EPA finalized its decision on glyphosate in January 2020, again stating the herbicide poses no risk to human health and can be used safely with certain drift mitigation requirements.

The agency first proposed the interim measure in April 2019 and accepted public comments until September 2019.

The January 2020 EPA interim decision brought some regulatory clarity to American farmers and chemical companies, amid a storm of global scrutiny of the chemical and a steady march of lawsuits against the herbicide Roundup and its registrant, Bayer.

In early February, both sides in the Wade v. Bayer glyphosate case agreed to an indefinite continuance in the trial to allow settlement talks to continue.

In June, Bayer reached a settlement of between $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion to resolve current and future litigation on Roundup. The settlement ran into some legal snags.

Bayer acquired Roundup brands as part of its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto. Bayer continues to maintain that glyphosate is safe, regularly pointing out that the EPA and many other countries' regulatory agencies support glyphosate's continued use.

Agricultural crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate have greatly expanded use of the chemistry since 1996. Glyphosate also is used in forestry, urban, lawn and garden applications. Bayer also had glyphosate in its portfolio before acquiring Monsanto.

That broad use has drawn worldwide attention to the herbicide and its safety.

Though glyphosate was developed by Monsanto, it is off-patent and sold by many agriculture companies as one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It came to market in 1974 under Monsanto's Roundup label for control of perennial and annual weeds in non-crop and industrial areas. In 2018, California regulators failed in an attempt to label glyphosate products as "known to cause cancer."

Read the full brief here:….

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Todd Neeley

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