EPA Glyphosate Decision Challenged

Lawsuit Alleges Agency Violated Endangered Species Act, FIFRA With Decision

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The EPA finalized an interim registration decision affirming that glyphosate is safe, while the agency continues work on the chemical's overall registration review, expected to wrap up in 2021. (DTN file photo by Jim Patrico)

OMAHA (DTN) -- EPA's interim registration approval of glyphosate in January now faces its first court challenge, as a number of food safety, farm worker and environmental groups have asked a federal appeals court to review the decision.

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 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

The groups 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.

EPA finalized the decision on glyphosate, 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.

"After a thorough review of the best available science, as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, EPA has concluded that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label, and that it is not a carcinogen," the EPA said in a January news release.

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

In the meantime, the interim decision brings 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.

The St. Louis, Missouri, case in the 22nd Circuit Court was near completion and about to be turned over to the jury to decide whether glyphosate, and specifically Roundup, led to the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma suffered by the three plaintiffs. This is the first multi-plaintiff case and the fourth case to reach the courtroom around the carcinogenic potential of the widely used herbicide.

Bayer lost all three previous cases and was ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars in damages.

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 country 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."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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