California appeals ruling barring Proposition 65 cancer warning for glyphosate


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra [September 9] filed a notice of appeal in the lawsuit National Association of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Becerra, challenging a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California barring Proposition 65 warnings for glyphosate-based pesticides. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many industrial and residential pesticides, including Monsanto Company’s widely-used Roundup products.

As a result of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) listed glyphosate as a chemical “known to the State to cause cancer” effective July 7, 2017.

“Today, we’re fighting for the right of Californians to make informed decisions about the products they buy and use,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We won’t let pesticide producers sweep the dangers of cancer-causing pesticides under the rug. Our families are already grappling with an unprecedented public health crisis. The least we can do is help protect them from avoidable health hazards.”

[Editor’s note: Most experts say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer. Read GLP’s FAQ Is glyphosate (Roundup) dangerous? to learn more.]

Under Proposition 65, OEHHA is required to publish and update a list of chemicals known to the State to cause cancer, as determined by certain “authoritative bodies,” including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and IARC, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization. After OEHHA filed a notice of intent to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the State to cause cancer, in 2016 Monsanto Company filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the listing. The Superior Court of Fresno County upheld the listing, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Appellate District affirmed the ruling.

Related article:  Talking Biotech: Florida’s Kevin Folta debunks claims of glyphosate in food; Oregon State’s Shaun Townsend uses genetics to breed more flavorful beer hops

In 2017, subsequent to the filing of the state court challenge to the listing, Monsanto Company and agricultural industry groups sued the Attorney General in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, arguing that requiring companies to provide a cancer warning for glyphosate under Proposition 65 was inconsistent with the First Amendment. On June 22, 2020, the District Court granted their motion for summary judgment in the case.

In today’s filing, Attorney General Becerra seeks to reverse the District Court’s ruling enjoining public and private enforcement of Proposition 65’s warning requirement for glyphosate. Attorney General Becerra intends to argue that the First Amendment does not bar the State from requiring companies to inform Californians before exposing them to a chemical which an authoritative body, such as IARC, has classified as both an animal carcinogen and a probable human carcinogen. This is precisely the kind of information the voters wanted when they adopted Proposition 65 more than thirty years ago.

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