California’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning marks.
Glyphosate was officially added to the Proposition 65 list of carcinogens in July 2017, and warning marks stating that glyphosate may cause cancer were supposed to be added to products beginning in the summer of 2018. The marks, but, were halted when Monsanto (which Bayer bought in June 2018) challenged the California rule in court.
It’s not surprising that Monsanto/Bayer would sue to stop cancer warning marks from being added to glyphosate-based products like Roundup. What is surprising is that the U.S. EPA has now joined in the fight — but instead of looking out for the public, they’re squarely in support of the pesticide industry.
EPA takes stand against glyphosate cancer marks
Monsanto filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plot to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When they didn’t give in, Monsanto took it a step further and filed a lawsuit against OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a Fresno, California, superior court judge ruled on their behalf in January 2017.1
As mentioned, in February 2018, a federal judge then temporarily banned California’s plans to add cancer warning marks on glyphosate-based products,2 a go the EPA has now backed up.
In a news release issued in August 2019, the EPA stated they will “no longer approve product marks claiming glyphosate is known to cause cancer,” adding that that is “a fake claim that does not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”3
They then took direct aim at California’s Proposition 65, stating, “The State of California’s much criticized Proposition 65 has led to misleading labeling requirements for products, like glyphosate, because it misinforms the public about the risks they are facing.”4 EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler added:5
“It is irresponsible to require marks on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy …
It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an vital step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide mark is right and not misleading.”
The EPA gave registrants with glyphosate products containing Prop 65 warning marks 90 days from August 7 to submit draft labeling removing the warning.
EPA sides with pesticide industry
In its latest assessment on glyphosate, the final draft of which was released in April 2019, the EPA found the chemical “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”6
Bayer, which is facing approximately 18,400 U.S. lawsuits from individuals alleging that glyphosate caused them to develop cancer,7 is using this as a part of its defense, stating the choice “reaffirmed that ‘glyphosate is not a carcinogen’ and that there are ‘no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current mark.'”8
In March 2015, but, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate to be a “probable carcinogen” (Class 2A). This determination is what OEHHA used when deciding to add glyphosate to the Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.
The EPA stated that their “independent evaluation of available scientific data included a more extensive and relevant dataset than IARC considered during its evaluation of glyphosate” in order to conclude glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans.9
Yet, according to consumer group Beyond Pesticides, “the bulk of the “more extensive and relevant dataset” analyzed by the agency were studies funded and produced by industry and not available to the public.”10
Monsanto spent millions to discredit IARC’s cancer ruling
It’s previously been revealed via internal emails that Monsanto paid the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), an industry front group, for the favor of publishing pro-glyphosate media, right around the time the IARC determined it to be a probable carcinogen.11
Dr. Daniel Goldstein, former head of medical sciences and outreach at Monsanto, wrote to colleagues about ACSH’s value to the company, stating there was “some money set aside for IARC” and Monsanto “should go ahead and make a contribution” pointing out that they had “dozens of pro-GMO and glyphosate postings” in the prior year.12 The colleagues still weren’t convinced, so Goldstein then wrote:13
“While I want to have more friends and more choices, we don’t have a lot of supporters and can’t afford to lose the few we have … You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH: They are working with us to respond if needed to IARC …”
Indeed, ACSH attacked IARC’s glyphosate findings as “scientific fraud,” going so far as to call the cancer agency a “fringe group, seemingly more interested in scaring people than identifying actual health threats.”14
Monsanto allocated about $17 million in one year in order to discredit IARC scientists that spoke out against glyphosate. The information came from a deposition of Monsanto executive Sam Murphey, who now works for Bayer. U.S. Right to Know revealed:15
“… [I]mmediately after the IARC classification of glyphosate — and continuing to this day — the cancer scientists became the subject of sweeping condemnation from an assortment of organizations, individuals and even some U.S. lawmakers.”
California fights back against EPA
In response to the EPA’s announcement, OEHHA issued a statement pointing out that Proposition 65 has helped to reduce or eliminate exposures to toxic chemicals for Californians. They stated that EPA’s press release “mischaracterized California’s Proposition 65 right-to-know law,” adding:
“OEHHA objects to US EPA’s characterization of any warning concerning glyphosate’s carcinogenicity as “a fake claim”. US EPA’s assertion is based on its view that glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer in humans.
That position conflicts with the determination made by IARC and its scientific panel, which included experts from the US National Cancer Institute, US EPA and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health, who carefully evaluated the extensive scientific evidence on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity.
It is disrespectful of the scientific process for US EPA to categorically dismiss any warnings based on IARC’s determinations as fake. Contrary to US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s claim, California law does not “dictate federal policy.” Proposition 65 does not require US EPA to take any action on glyphosate or any other listed chemical.
Proposition 65 is a right-to-know statute approved overwhelmingly by California voters in 1986 that ensures consumers receive accurate, science-based information about the chemicals to which they are exposed.”
Consumers have a right to know that a product they’re using has been linked to cancer and other health problems, including endocrine disruption,16 and the EPA should be erring on the side of caution to protect public health instead of protecting industry interests.
Home Depot and Lowes sued for selling Roundup
It’s ironic that the EPA is targeting California’s glyphosate cancer warnings even as lawsuits linking the chemical to cancer continue to mount. In August 2018, jurors ruled Monsanto must pay $289 million in hurts to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s herbicide Roundup caused his terminal cancer.17
The award was later slashed to $78 million,18 but it signaled the beginning of a running trend in Roundup cancer lawsuits. The next two verdicts also sided with the plaintiffs, including a $2-billion payout in the third case, which was later slashed to $20 million.19
Whether or not retailers can be held liable for not warning consumers about this probable carcinogen may soon be determined as well, as two proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed with Home Depot and Lowe’s over the companies’ lack of warnings to their customers.
One complaint alleges that, due to glyphosate’s “probable carcinogenic nature,” Home Depot was in violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act by not disclosing the cancer risk on the mark.20 The warning mark on Roundup is also deemed inadequate because it only warns of “moderate eye irritation,” giving a fake impression that this is the only risk. The suit further alleges:21,22
“Roundup’s labeling provides certain warnings, such as, “Keep Out of Reach of Children” and “Caution.” But the only identified hazard identified is that it may cause “moderate eye irritation …
This warning gives the fake impression eye irritation is the only risk posed by Roundup, when in fact, glyphosate is known to have links to cancer … Defendant thus fails to warn consumers of the potential carcinogenic risks of using Roundup …
Defendant’s conduct is especially egregious considering it also fails to include proper use instructions for Roundup … Reasonable consumers, like Plaintiff, who have bought Roundup would not have done so had they known of its carcinogenic risks, or had Defendant provided a warning on how to minimize these risks.”
The same complaints are echoed in the class-action suit filed against Lowes.23,24 As noted by GM Watch, “This court action seems to open up a whole new potential class of lawsuits involving Bayer’s Roundup herbicide. Not only is Bayer being sued by thousands of people who believe Roundup herbicide caused their cancer, but now retailers are being sued for selling Roundup without a cancer warning mark.”25
How to protect yourself from glyphosate
The EPA isn’t taking steps to warn the public about glyphosate. On the contrary, they’re working to remove warning marks that may have alerted consumers to its risks in California. But warning mark or not, this is one chemical that is wise to avoid as much as possible.
Glyphosate residues are found in many foods, including genetically engineered crops and non-GE grains, such as oats. One of the best ways to avoid exposure is to eat organic or biodynamically grown food, and invest in a excellent water filtration system for your home to lower exposure that may occur via drinking water. You’ll also want to avoid using glyphosate-based products around your home and garden.
If you’re interested, the Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.
Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better know the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure.
We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study. HRI is also in the process of doing hair testing for glyphosate, which is a better test for long-term exposure.
If it turns out that you have measurable levels of glyphosate in your body, Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), shared some tips for detoxing glyphosate here.