LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- EPA walked away from a legal battle on its interim determination that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to people, telling the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week the agency will instead focus on Roundup's ongoing registration review expected to be completed in 2026.
EPA withdrew the legal challenge because the agency was unable to meet the court's Oct. 1 deadline to complete an Endangered Species Act review and conduct a new health-assessment analysis. EPA said such a process would take many months to complete.
When it comes to the ongoing registration review of glyphosate, the EPA said withdrawing from the legal case doesn't mean it's necessarily changing its position on the human-health assessment.
EPA said the court action does not mean the conclusion was "either incorrect or cannot be used as support for a future decision following reconsideration in accordance with the court's decision."
However, the agency said it intends to "revisit and better explain" its evaluation of glyphosate's potential carcinogenic effects on people.
On June 17, 2022, the Ninth Circuit vacated EPA's interim registration review over the health effects of glyphosate and ordered the agency to conduct "further analysis and explanation." In addition, the court ruled EPA had not completed an Endangered Species Act (ESA) determination on glyphosate.
"The agency is unable to finalize a new ecological portion in a registration review decision for glyphosate by the court-imposed Oct. 1, 2022, deadline because of the time needed to address the issues for which EPA sought remand and to complete consultation under ESA," the agency said in a filing with the Ninth Circuit.
"Moreover, before issuing such a decision, EPA must first prepare a proposed decision, make it available for a period of public comment of at least 60 days, and consider any comments received. Insofar as the court has ordered EPA to finalize a 'new ecological portion,' doing so through another interim registration review decision or a final registration review decision would involve significant and lengthy steps."
Bayer AG has decided to change the active ingredient in Roundup for residential customers beginning in 2023. However, the company said it will continue to sell Roundup for agricultural uses.
In a statement to DTN, Bayer said the agency's decision has, "no effect on the registration of glyphosate or Roundup products, nor does it change the conclusions the EPA has repeatedly reached regarding the safety and non-carcinogenicity of these products."
Since the agency's interim decision was a discretionary action taken by the EPA, Bayer said the agency was free to withdraw the interim decision.
"The EPA confirmed it is conducting additional work consistent with the Ninth Circuit's June ruling," Bayer said.
"We remain confident, based on the extensive science supporting its safety, that the agency will again conclude that glyphosate is safe for use and not carcinogenic as they have for decades, consistent with the findings of other expert regulators worldwide."
EPA laid out a number of next steps to complete glyphosate's review process.
That includes whether additional or different risk-mitigation measures may be needed for glyphosate; to consider in-field effects of glyphosate on monarch butterfly habitats; to evaluate whether the agency's analysis of spray-drift risks and potential costs of dicamba are "relevant" to spray-drift risks of glyphosate, among other issues.
In addition, EPA said it plans to complete an ESA consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on glyphosate.
Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety and lead counsel in the case, said in a statement the agency still leaves open a number of questions about glyphosate's use.
"EPA is letting glyphosate be sold and sprayed, despite outstanding major questions about its health and environmental safety," van Saun said.
"What EPA should do instead is cancel glyphosate products, until and unless it re-assesses its risks and assures its safety in a lawful way."
Read more on DTN:
"Court Rejects EPA Glyphosate Analysis," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"Bayer Rejects Global Roundup Settlement," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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