Monsanto sues California over weed killer cancer warnings

Monsanto sues California over weed killer cancer warnings
Agrochemical giant Monsanto and US farm groups are suing California to stop the state from issuing cancer warnings on the company's herbicide glyphosate, which farmers use on genetically engineered crops.

California has added glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, to a list of cancer-causing chemicals. The state acted after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently ruled glyphosate a carcinogen. IARC said that along with other Monsanto chemicals Roundup could cause Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in California, Monsanto and groups representing corn, soy, and wheat farmers rejected that glyphosate causes cancer. They said the state’s requirement for warnings would force sellers of products containing the chemical to spread false information.

“Such warnings would equate to compelled false speech, directly violate the First Amendment, and generate unwarranted public concern and confusion,” Monsanto’s Vice President of global strategy Scott Partridge said in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, Monsanto has already suffered damage to its investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in glyphosate products since California added the chemical to its blacklist of products causing cancer.

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For more than 40 years, glyphosate has been used by US farmers to kill weeds before planting corn fed to livestock. They spray it on genetically engineered soybeans and sometimes on wheat before it was harvested. In the US, the herbicide has been considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate.

“Everything that we grow is probably going to have to be labeled,” said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, a state spokesman Sam Delson said California is considering a proposal known as a No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) under which certain goods that meet a standard for containing low amounts of glyphosate, could be sold without warnings.

“We do not anticipate that food products would cause exposures that exceed the proposed NSRL,” he said. “However, we cannot say that with certainty at this point and businesses make the determination.”

Monsanto has been facing a crisis over its Roundup herbicide. Its new version of another chemical known as dicamba has been blamed for widespread US crop damage this summer. This month the company was sued by Brazilian farmers, calling for the ending of Monsanto’s Intacta GMO seed patent. They claim irregularities, including the company’s alleged failure to prove it brings de facto technological innovation.