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In a Boost for Bayer, U.S. to Block Warning Labels on Glyphosate

Chiding California regulators for “misleading labeling requirements,” the EPA told herbicide makers to remove cancer warnings from containers of glyphosate, the most widely used weedkiller in the world, in a step that would benefit seed and ag chemical giant Bayer. Meanwhile, a court-appointed mediator dismissed as “pure fiction” a report that the German company offered $8 billion to settle all U.S. lawsuits against Roundup, Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicide.

In July 2017, California’s Office of Environmental Health Assessment added glyphosate to its “Proposition 65” list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The listing followed the 2015 conclusion by the UN International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA disagrees after running its own safety assessment.

“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.”

The EPA said it will not approve labels that include a cancer warning against glyphosate and it gave companies with glyphosate products 90 days to submit new labels that remove any Proposition 65 warnings. In February 2018, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the warning labels.

Glyphosate was popularized by Monsanto, which genetically engineered crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and sugarbeets, to tolerate spraying by the weedkiller. Monsanto is now owned by Bayer.

Hundreds of lawsuits are pending in U.S. courts alleging glyphosate led to cancer in people who used the herbicide. A published report said Bayer was ready to pay $8 billion to settle all U.S. claims. “Such a statement is pure fiction,” said mediator Ken Feinberg, reported Reuters. Feinberg is leading settlement talks in federal court. Most of the glyphosate cases have been filed in state courts.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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