Judge Allows California to Require Cancer Warning on Monsanto's Roundup

CC BY 2.0. Mike Mozart

A judge has ruled against Monsanto; company complains that it would drive some customers away. Unsealed documents add to drama.

California's Proposition 65 is an initiative all states should be so lucky to have. The voter-approved Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. It has resulted in a plethora of warning labels on products that may otherwise be marketed as innocuous.

Last January, the Big Ag powerhouse, Monsanto, sued California EPA's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment when the agency issued a notice of intent to add glyphosate to its Proposition 65 list of chemicals. Glyphosate is a controversial chemical that acts as the active ingredient in Roundup, the pesky weed killer that is sold in more than 160 countries. Roundup works in tandem with Roundup Ready crops, which are crops genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide – the seeds of which are also sold by, yes, Monsanto. In California, Roundup is used on 250 types of crops.

While the company has denied any connection between cancer and the use of glyphosate, others disagree. In selecting the chemical for listing for Prop 65, California regulators went with findings by the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, considered a gold standard for cancer research, notes the Associated Press

And now Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan has dismissed Monsanto's challenge. In her final ruling, the judge said that none of Monsanto's objections were viable, the Fresno Bee reports.

Monsanto's attorney, Trenton Norris, told the judge that the warnings would drive some customers away, hurting the company.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday a federal court unsealed documents that appear to shine a bit light on some of Monsanto's practices. The files were unsealed by Judge Vince Chhabria, who is presiding over litigation brought by people who claim to have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of exposure to glyphosate, reports The New York Times:

The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” Monsanto claimed in a statement. Again, others beg to differ.

“People should know that there are superb scientists in the world who would disagree with Monsanto and some of the regulatory agencies’ evaluations, and even E.P.A. has disagreement within the agency,” Robin Greenwald, a lawyer involved in the lymphoma litigation, told The Times. “Even in the E.U., there’s been a lot of disagreement among the countries. It’s not so simple as Monsanto makes it out to be.“