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California Federal Court Finds ‘Insufficient Evidence’ to Require Warning Labels on Roundup Products

On February 26, 2018, a federal judge in the District Court for the Eastern District of California halted a Prop 65 requirement that Monsanto place warning labels on its Roundup products, deciding that there was “insufficient evidence” the popular weed killer causes cancer. The labeling requirement for the product was to go in to effect in July of 2018.

Monsanto and several other agricultural industry groups sued the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, a chemical watchdog group, over its requirement to label glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup, as a substance known to cause cancer. Roundup products are used safely on more than 250 federally approved farms.

In issuing the preliminary injunction in the First Amendment case, Judge William Shubb wrote that the required warning for glyphosate, “does not appear to be factually accurate and uncontroversial because it conveys the message that glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is an undisputed fact, when almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.” He continued, “As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading.”

The Prop 65 requirement was based on a 2015 conclusion by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate was a “probable” carcinogen. These same findings were later dismissed by two European Union bodies, and the EPA and multiple bodies of the World Health Organization have stated that the connection to cancer is unclear.  Judge Shubb stated that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment placed too much weight on the IARC’s analysis, while disregarding other scientific conclusions.

The court’s decision was praised by the National Association of Wheat Growers.  Chandler Goule, the chief executive officer of the Association, said, “[This] is the first step in our efforts to prevent California from forcing farmers, growers and manufacturers to place false and misleading labels on agricultural products. California’s erroneous Prop 65 listing of glyphosate is not based on data, facts or science and we look forward to continuing to make our case in court.”

As the Judicial Hellholes report has documented for years, California’s private-attorney-enforced and thus easily exploited Prop 65 became law as a well-intentioned voter referendum in 1986. It requires the placement of ominous warning signs in various businesses and other public accommodations where even the slightest, non-threatening trace amounts of now more than 1,000 listed chemicals that state environmental regulators deem carcinogenic or otherwise toxic may be present. Prop 65 labeling requirements and the litigation surrounding them are big reasons why California is a perennial Judicial Hellhole. The state needs more judges like Judge Shubb to issue commonsense decisions based on actual science and factual data to end the lucrative-at-the-expense-of-California-businesses Prop 65 racket.

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