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Monsanto Seeks to Block California Probably Carcinogenic Designation for Roundup

Jan 23, 2016

Monsanto Corporation has filed a lawsuit to block the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) from adding glyphosate-the main ingredient in Roundup-to its listing of chemicals known to cause cancer.

The list of chemicals is authorized under California's Proposition 65, 1986 legislation to keep chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm out of the state's drinking-water supply, Law360 reports. In its lawsuit, Monsanto argued that it was denied due process. Monsanto said the listing was "virtually automatic" after International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic. Under Prop. 65, businesses must post a warning when their operations or products will expose people to any of the chemicals on the list.

Monsanto claims, "OEHHA effectively elevated the determination of an ad hoc committee of an unelected, foreign body, which answers to no United States official (let alone any California state official), over the conclusions of its own scientific experts." Phil Miller, Monsanto's vice president for regulatory affairs, said OEHHA's proposed listing is "contrary to science." He said IARC's designation is "erroneous, non-transparent and based on selectively interpreted data," according to Law360.

Monsanto alleges that the portion of the California Labor Code that cites IARC findings as a basis for Prop. 65 inclusion violates the California and U.S. constitutions. Monsanto told the court that during the 40 years Roundup has been in use, regulators and scientists who have not found an associated cancer risk. Evaluators of the product included the OEHHA itself. In 1997 and again in 2007 OEHHA concluded that glyphosate is not likely to pose a significant cancer risk to humans, Law360 reports.

Roundup, one of the most widely used chemicals in the world, is used commercially on crops such as corn and soybeans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that in 2007 farmers in the U.S. used about 185 million pounds of glyphosate, double the amount used six years earlier. Roundup is also widely used by landscapers and home gardeners.

In 2015, the IARC classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans," the New York Times reported. The agency based its determination on studies of glyphosate exposure in the United States, Canada, and Sweden since 2001. "Probably carcinogenic" is a more difficult to refute than "possibly carcinogenic."

Glyphosate has been linked to leukemia (multiple myeloma, myeloma), and lymphoma (non-Hodgkin's, Hodgkin's), and also to Parkinson's disease. In addition, glyphosate has been linked to a health problems including respiratory distress, impaired consciousness, pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and renal failure, according to a study published in Toxicology Review in 2004. People exposed to glyphosate have experienced blurred vision, coma, confusion, dizziness, hand tremors, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and loss of coordination.

After the IARC designated glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, Segolene Royal, France's ecology minister, banned the sale of Roundup at garden centers. Residents in a town in Argentina's Entre Rios province are demanding action on its high cancer death rates. Nearly half the deaths there in recent years have been attributed to cancer; the national cancer death rate is 18 percent. Residents blame heavy use of Roundup on rice and soybean crops for a cancer death rate far higher than the national average.

Two people, a Hawaiian farmer and a California field worker, have filed suit against Monsanto, alleging Roundup caused their cancers. Both suits cite the IARC clsssification in support of their claims. Law360 reports that Monsanto is seeking to have the cases dismissed.

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