Court Upholds Glyphosate Labels Block

California's Attorney General Offers Alternative Label Ideas

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A judge ordered a California law requiring labels on glyphosate products to remain blocked. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- A federal judge turned away the state of California's attempt to lift a preliminary injunction Tuesday, further blocking California's attempt to put a warning label on glyphosate products stating the chemical is known to cause cancer.

California has a 1986 law, Proposition 65, that protects the state's drinking water and requires businesses to inform the public about exposures to such chemicals, including warning labels. California added glyphosate to that list of chemicals last year.

California Attorney General Xavier Beccera had filed a motion to lift a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, including alternative label warnings the state wanted the court to consider.

The original requirement, which was set to take effect in July, was challenged by a number of agriculture groups as well as attorneys general in 11 other states. The 11 other attorneys general in the California case argued the label requirement violated the right of "sovereign states to craft their own public policy and inflicts significant damage on the people and economies of other states." They argued the California law creates an incentive for the state's businesses to "abandon glyphosate products altogether."

The federal court on Tuesday stated "it is 'an impossible task' to disclose 'everything on each side on the scientific debate,'" the court said in its ruling, "and the law does not require a warning label to disclose the details of the debate in the scientific community regarding glyphosate's carcinogenicity -- to do so would turn a warning label into an essay."

The preliminary injunction will remain in place until the court can consider all the evidence in the case, originally filed by the National Association of Wheat Growers.

"California is attempting to implement a policy that would cause damage to American farmers," Chandler Goule, chief executive officer for the National Association of Wheat Growers, said in a news release. "The facts and science are on our side which show that glyphosate is safe for use."

In originally issuing the injunction, Judge William B. Shubb said the state's requirement would run contrary to a broader body of science on glyphosate.

The vast body of science done on the chemical has found no direct link between glyphosate and human cancers.


In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, concluded glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic."

IARC came under fire as a result of its broad declarations about what is carcinogenic in summary reports the IARC calls "monographs." The agency, for instance, drew scorn in 2015 for a monograph classifying processed red meats such as bacon as carcinogenic.

The IARC's glyphosate finding set off a series of reactions. The EPA released and retracted a report refuting the IARC's conclusion in 2015.

Monsanto has been sued dozens of times by people claiming various cancers linked to glyphosate exposure. Nearly every one of those cases filed cite the IARC findings.

At the end of December 2017, the EPA announced in its draft risk assessment of glyphosate that the herbicide is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

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.

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

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

At the end of November 2017, the European Union approved a five-year extension of glyphosate's use. Agriculture interests had wanted a 15-year extension.

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Todd Neeley