California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.
Monsanto filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When the agency didn’t give in, Monsanto took it a step further and filed a lawsuit against OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a Fresno, California, superior court judge ruled on their behalf in February 2017.
California regulators stated that glyphosate will appear on the state’s list of cancerous chemicals beginning July 7, 2017,1 which means new labels may be appearing within the next year in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers, including Ortho Groundclear, KleenUp, AquaMaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp, Touchdown Total, Traxion, Vector and Vantage Plus Max II, and others.2
California’s Move Follows IARC’s 2015 Cancer Determination
The final say on whether Roundup will get a cancer warning label is still up in the air for now, as Monsanto has filed yet another appeal in an attempt to block the labeling. California’s decision to add the chemical to its Prop 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals came in response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 determination that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen."
Monsanto continues to contest the classification, even as it’s become clear that they may have worked with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to stop glyphosate investigations.
Email correspondence showed Jess Rowland, who at the time was the EPA's deputy division director of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto's behalf.
In an email, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Dan Jenkins recounts a conversation he'd had with Rowland, in which Rowland said, "If I can kill this I should get a medal,”3 referring to the ATSDR investigation, which did not end up occurring.
Roundup Cancer Lawsuits Popping up All Over the US
Meanwhile, more than 800 people with cancer are suing Monsanto over claims the glyphosate-based herbicide made them ill — and Monsanto did little to warn the public, despite knowing cancer risks existed.4,5 Glyphosate is said to work by inhibiting only a single enzyme not found in people or pets to kill unwanted plants, but a team of environmental attorneys including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have accused Monsanto of false advertising in this regard. In addition, Bloomberg reported:6
“The attorneys have spent the last several months poring over hundreds of confidential documents they say show that the company actively worked to downplay the cancer risk for glyphosate. Since March , the lawyers have successfully unsealed a trove of emails, letters and studies intended to inject doubt into the process by which Roundup earned its Environmental Protection Agency approval.
They suggest that Monsanto’s scientists ghost-wrote studies that cleared glyphosate of its cancer-causing potential; that the company tried to enlist EPA staff to shut down an investigation into the herbicide; and that officials hired a scientist in 1985 to persuade EPA regulators to change its decision on its cancer classification for glyphosate.”
In addition to the glyphosate/cancer lawsuits, plaintiffs from California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin are also suing Monsanto over claims that Roundup disrupts the gut microbiome.7
In regard to the claim that Roundup targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets, six consumers from across the U.S. have filed a complaint against Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro (the exclusive marketer of Roundup) alleging that the statement is false and deceptive, as the enzyme is, in fact, found in the gut bacteria of people and pets.
Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, and that's the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals. Beyond Pesticides explained:8
“Because glyphosate disrupts a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants — but not animals — many have assumed that it does not harm humans. However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90 percent of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern — and a major contributor to disease.”