Capital Press File
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the state of California and its plan to require warning signs that say 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.”
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 is the lead plaintiff in the case against the state.
“I think what this demonstrates, definitely, is a huge win for the consumer and the agriculture industry, where the judge has clearly read all the briefs and taken in all the science and data and the hundreds of state, national and international organizations that have claimed and proven glyphosate is a safe product,” NAWG CEO Chandler Goule said. “This fast turnaround just demonstrates that when the facts and science are on your side, you will prevail.”
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.
Goule said he expects California will be required to remove glyphosate from the list at the conclusion of the lawsuit, based upon science.
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.
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.
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.
Goule expects California to file an appeal within the next week or two.
“Those who want to attack the food production systems in the United States to make it more difficult for us to provide safe, affordable food will always continue,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important that we ... make sure we are really using the science and the data behind these opinions, and not the opinions and scare tactics of (non-governmental organizations) that are here just to make money off of scaring consumers.”