The Rundown on Glyphosate

Submitted by ameyer on April 5, 2017

Glyphosate, the key chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide, has been the subject of numerous headlines concerning its toxicity over the last few weeks. Here is a rundown of the latest updates on glyphosate:

Glyphosate Deemed Probable Carcinogen

As you may recall, two years ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization deemed glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. The IARC directly linked glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This decision started a ripple effect of reactions. Monsanto went on the defense and ardently stood by its product, declaring that the IARC’s ruling was incorrect. While others responded to IARC’s ruling by using it as the launching point to hold glyphosate accountable for its impacts on the people.

California Takes Action

Two major actions began simultaneously in California (CA); a class action lawsuit aiming to hold Monsanto accountable for cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in those who were regularly exposed to glyphosate and the state of CA started the process via Proposition 65 to list glyphosate as a “chemical known to the state to cause cancer.” Both actions resulted in a ripple effect of new information and concern around glyphosate and Monsanto. The CA based class action lawsuit is not the only one alleging harms from glyphosate, there are simultaneous lawsuits happening in other states.

The case in CA raises several main questions. Does glyphosate cause cancer, more specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma? Did Monsanto knowingly cover up the risks associated with glyphosate? The discovery phase of the lawsuit process yielded tens of thousands of Monsanto’s internal documents and communications. Naturally, Monsanto has been working extra hard to make sure that none of this information is made public. Fortunately, the judge on the case recently threatened to sanction Monsanto if it continued to try and hide information from the public.

Because of the lawsuit, we are getting a clearer view of Monsanto’s relationship with the EPA, the government body that is supposed to regulate chemicals, such as glyphosate. Recently released documents suggest that Monsanto employees aided in the authoring of EPA reports from a committee that “found insufficient evidence to conclude glyphosate causes cancer.” The documents demonstrate the very close relationship between EPA officials and Monsanto and suggest a lack of consensus within the EPA regarding the safety of glyphosate.

As a result of the recent findings regarding the questionable relationship between the EPA and Monsanto, US Congressman Ted Lieu is calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the relationship between the EPA and Monsanto and possible collusion between the two. Such an investigation is even more urgent considering the recent failure of the EPA to regulate another pesticide that its own scientists deemed unsafe.

Following the WHO’s announcement on glyphosate, California began the process of listing glyphosate under the Proposition 65 warning. This process was delayed due to a lawsuit filed by Monsanto challenging the state’s plans. The state recently won the lawsuit and is beginning the process of listing glyphosate as a chemical know to the state to cause cancer. Historically, Since California is such a larger market when the state implements on-package warning labels they end up being used nationally.


Federal Response to Concerns

While consumers and the state of California are actively working to address glyphosate’s impacts on people and the environment the federal government is taking a different approach. The USDA recently dropped a plan to test for glyphosate residues in food. The USDA will not routinely test food for glyphosate residue, even though glyphosate is the most common pesticide used throughout the world (and in the US). This change in plans comes on the heels of the FDA suspending their own testing for glyphosate residue last fall after scientists found alarmingly high levels of glyphosate in honey.

The priorities of the current administration do not coincide with the need to regulate chemicals and hold corporations accountable for their actions. Both practices are essential for protecting the well-being of people and the environment. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information on glyphosate and changes to our federal regulators and ways that you can get involved.

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