US: Glyphosate product labeling blocked for the moment

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/wavebreakmedia
© iStock/wavebreakmedia
A temporary halt to glyphosate product labeling requirements in an ongoing lawsuit offers feed crop producers ‘time to breathe’ while the case is argued, says the National Corn Growers Association.

The preliminary injunction against the state of California's plans to put cancer warnings on products containing glyphosate was announced​ earlier this week by William Shubb, US District Judge.

Several feed grain associations and glyphoste manufacturer, Monsanto, had brought the case. 

“On the evidence before the court, 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,” ​said the judge.

“Where California seeks to compel businesses to provide cancer warnings, the warnings must be factually accurate and not misleading,”​ he said in the ruling. “As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading.”

However, the ruling denied the group’s related request that California desist from listing glyphosate as a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer”​ under its Health & Safety Code.

The state can continue to place the herbicide on its cancer list.

The state added glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, to its list of cancer-causing chemicals in July 2017 and had planned to require that products containing the chemical carry warnings by July 2018. California acted after the 2015 review of the herbicide by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The blocking of the labeling process is set to last through to the resolution of the lawsuit, the judge said. During that time there can be no enforcement of the state code requirement that “any person in the course of doing business provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate.”

Injunction request and case overview

Glyphosate is an herbicide that has more than 250 approved agricultural uses in the US, according to court documents. In the US, it is used during the cultivation of several feed crops including corn, soybeans, canola, oats and wheat.

The lawsuit​ was brought “to prevent defendants from mandating false, misleading, and highly controversial cancer warnings concerning the herbicide glyphosate on a wide variety of food, agricultural, industrial, and lawn and garden products,”​ according to court documents.

Being granted the preliminary injunction is a step in the right direction, said Nathan Fields, director of biotechnology and crop inputs with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

“It allows the argument to be made under not an abrupt timeline,” ​he told FeedNavigator. “It gives us time to breathe.”

The case has been important for feed grower organizations like the NCGA because glyphosate can be a critical tool for growers, he said. “We wanted to get involved with it because glyphosate is an important tool to our growers and it allows for practices that help with no till, and soil health and other aspects,”​ he added.

If the preliminary injunction had not been approved then a threshold limit for the amount of glyphosate found in a product would have had to be set, which could have several problematic elements, he said. It likely would have had repercussions for any producer who deals with a product, like corn, that is raised in a situation where glyphosate is used.

It also could mean that manufacturers turn to feed crops or products raised without use of glyphosate, which could result in the use of weed control agents with larger environmental footprints, said Fields. Setting threshold limits also might allow for an increase in opportunistic lawsuits against producers or companies.

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