Growers challenge chemical labeled as causing cancer

By John Sammon | Nov 16, 2017

SACRAMENTO - A collection of agricultural grower associations are asking a federal court for punitive relief in a complaint against the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the state Attorney General’s Office, over the labeling of a chemical called “glyphosate” as cancer causing.

The complaint filed Nov. 15 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California represents farm-related organizations as plaintiffs including the National Association of Wheat Growers Associated, U.S. Durum Growers Association, Western Plant Health Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Iowa Soybean Association, North Dakota Grain Growers and South Dakota Agribusiness associations, and Monsanto Corporation.

The defendants are Lauren Zeise, director of the OEHHA and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The grower organizations accused the defendants of making false and misleading statements about the use of the chemical glyphosate to grow crops and the publishing of cancer warnings on labels for food, agricultural, industrial, lawn and garden products. They allege the U.S. government-approved chemical has been widely used in 250 applications to grow major crops such as wheat, soybean, corn, canola and oats, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) repeatedly concluded the substance did not present any unreasonable adverse effect on human health or the environment.

“The same is true for every regulatory body worldwide that has evaluated glyphosate,” the complaint read.

Under Proposition 65 passed by California voters, the public must be warned about the presence of chemicals in products known by the state to cause cancer.

The plaintiffs said despite overwhelming scientific evidence, glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The plaintiffs argue approvals under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the chemical had been targeted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a non-governmental, foreign entity. The complaint said the IARC required a listing of the chemical under Proposition 65 no matter whether the determination was supported by scientific consensus.

“A listing under the labor code mechanism is automatically required even if the IARC is absolutely alone in its views, as is the case here, where IARC’s conclusion is opposed by every global regulatory body that has examined the issue, ” the complaint read.

The plaintiffs allege the substance’s listing as a carcinogen and warnings about it on product labels violated the First Amendment (free speech) by compelling the issuing of false information and also violated a due process clause of the 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law).

The complaint asked the court for relief by declaring violations of the First and 14th amendments and a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (recognizes the Constitution as the supreme law of the land). 

The complaint also seeks injunctions against the defendants or their agencies from enforcing Proposition 65 in regard to glyphosate.




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