EPA reaffirms the safety of herbicide glyphosate - 'no risk to public health'

By Rich Peters | May 1, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a statement Tuesday that there are “no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label” and that “glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”

Glyphosate, an active ingredient in common weed killers, has been the subject of three Bay Area trials in which the plaintiffs have sued Monsanto for alleging that their product Roundup was a substantial factor in causing their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

In each of the three cases plaintiffs’ attorneys have stressed that Monsanto knowingly failed to warn the public of the health risks that the herbicide glyphosate posed to Roundup users.

Earlier this month, Bayer, which purchased Monsanto last year, pledged their transparency to the public in a written statement:

“Transparency is a catalyst for trust, so more transparency is a good thing for consumers, policymakers and businesses. As an innovation company, safety is our top priority and we are completely committed to doing everything we can to ensure that our products are safe for people and the environment,” said Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and president of the Crop Science Division in Bayer’s message. “By making our detailed scientific safety data available, we encourage anyone interested to see for themselves how comprehensive our approach to safety is. We embrace the opportunity to engage in dialogue so we can build more trust in sound science.”

Less than a month later, the EPA’s statement was a major step forward in Bayer’s case for product safety and company transparency.

“EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the written statement. “Today’s proposed action includes new management measures that will help farmers use glyphosate in the most effective and efficient way possible, including pollinator protections. We look forward to input from farmers and other stakeholders to ensure that the draft management measures are workable, realistic, and effective.”

Four major factors were highlighted in the EPA’s findings regarding public health concerns.

-No risk to human health from current uses of glyphosate.

-No indication that children are more sensitive to glyphosate.

-No evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.

-No indication that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.

The EPA’s announcement comes during the final week of the Pilliod v. Monsanto trial taking place in an Oakland Superior Court. In the third case of its kind, the plaintiffs, a married, Northern California couple in the their 70s, are hoping for a similar outcome to the first two trials. 

Last year, plaintiff Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289 million in damages, which was later reduced to $78 million. In March, plaintiff Edwin Hardeman was awarded $80.5 million in damages.

Last week, Monsanto appealed the outcome of the Dewayne Johnson trial as the company continues to stand behind the safety of the product. 

“The court should reverse with directions to enter judgment for Monsanto because there is no substantial evidence to support any theory of liability or causation, and because all liability theories are preempted,” concluded the lengthy, 99-page appeal document.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who presided over the Hardeman case, issued a formal order of mediation, asking Bayer to negotiate with lawyers of cancer victims who claim Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A fourth trial, Stevick v. Monsanto, was initially set to begin on May 20 with Judge Chhabria presiding. However, Chhabria deferred that date as he is urging the parties of the many pending lawsuits to come to terms on a settlement. A hearing will take place on May 22.

More than 10,000 plaintiffs have now sued Monsanto over similar allegations of glyphosate being linked to their NHL.

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