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Judge halts Prop 65 glyphosate warnings

Proposition 65 listing is based on factually incorrect information, the plaintiffs argue.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on February 23, 2018 11:04AM

Last changed on February 27, 2018 10:30AM

A field of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Alfalfa is one of a handful of genetically modified crops that are resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient of Roundup weed killer. A coalition of agricultural organizations has obtained a temporary injunction to stop the state of California from requiring warning signs that glyphosate is a carcinogen under Proposition 65.

Capital Press File

A field of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Alfalfa is one of a handful of genetically modified crops that are resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient of Roundup weed killer. A coalition of agricultural organizations has obtained a temporary injunction to stop the state of California from requiring warning signs that glyphosate is a carcinogen under Proposition 65.


A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the state of California and its plan to require warning signs that the weed killer glyphosate causes cancer.

An agricultural coalition led by the National Association of Wheat Growers had sought the injunction. Proposition 65, a controversial ballot initiative the California voters passed in 1986, requires signs indicating the presence of carcinogens. The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last year added glyphosate to its list of chemicals “known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

“It is inherently misleading for a warning to state that a chemical is known to the state of California to cause cancer based on the finding of one organization, which ... only found that substance is probably carcinogenic, when apparently all other regulatory and governmental bodies found the opposite, including the EPA,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Shubb, in the Eastern District of California.

Shubb examined what the state of California can compel businesses to say under the First Amendment.

“Where California seeks to compel businesses to provide cancer warnings, the warnings must be factually accurate and not misleading,” Shubb wrote. “As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading.”

Shubb denied the coalition’s request for an injunction keeping California from listing glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

“However, here, given the heavy weight of evidence in the record that glyophosate is not in fact known to cause cancer, the required warning is factually inaccurate and controversial,” he wrote.

NAWG is the lead plaintiff in the case against the state. The coalition argues that the statement is factually incorrect, and under the First Amendment to the Constitution the state cannot compel companies or individuals to make false statements.

In December, the coalition filed for the injunction, asking the court to halt the regulation until the case could be heard. The judge heard oral arguments last week. The regulation was set to go into effect later this year.

NAWG argued that California ignored facts, data, science and scientific findings from “hundreds” of studies and conclusions by the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health and regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe for use.

The association wanted to present “actual facts” to the court, NAWG CEO Chandler Goule told the Capital Press prior to Shubb’s ruling.

“Glyphosate is a safe product, it has been proven over and over,” he said.

California listed glyphosate based on “flawed data” from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Goule said. The agency pushes the “European trade agenda” to put barriers on U.S. products entering Europe, he said.

The IARC has listed glyphosate as a “probable” carcinogen.

Listing glyphosate would have caused products to be “improperly labeled with labels that are going to mislead consumers when glyphosate has been proved to be a safe product,” Goule said before the ruling.

“The facts are in our favor,” Goule said. “(Consumers) have a right to know, but we need to make sure (they have) the correct information.”

Glyphosate, best known by the trade name Roundup, has been used as an herbicide for 40 years to rid farm fields of weeds. More recently, it has also been used in conjunction with a handful of genetically modified “Roundup Ready” crops that are resistant to it. This allows farmers to kill weeds without killing the crops.

“What’s most important is we stood up for U.S. wheat farmers and U.S. farmers in general to make sure we put out accurate information of how glyphosate is used and that it’s been proven to be a safe product,” Goule said.

Other plaintiffs in the case include the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the Agricultural Retailers Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, Iowa Soybean Association, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CropLife America, Missouri Farm Bureau, Monsanto Co., National Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, South Dakota Agri-Business Association and United States Durum Growers Association.



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