Judge Rules Cancer Warning Not Necessary for Roundup in California

A California court ruled in favor of Monsanto Company and multiple agriculture organizations, finding that glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup weed killer, should not be on the list of chemicals known to cause cancer published by the state of California. 

“This is a very important ruling for California agriculture and for science as a federal court, after weighing all the facts, has concluded that the evidence does not support a cancer warning requirement for glyphosate-based products, which farmers all over the world depend on to control weeds, practice sustainable farming, and bring their products to market efficiently,” said Bayer AG, who owns Monsanto, in a statement

The plaintiffs challenged glyphosate’s addition to the list under the First Amendment, because of the threat the addition would cause for lawsuits and the cost of testing to defend products in future lawsuits. The court said it found the glyphosate warning was “not purely factual and uncontroversial under the First Amendment, as required for compelled commercial speech,” according to Monday’s Memorandum and Order

California Proposition 65 requires warnings on items including chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. California has provided a list of these chemicals yearly since 1987. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic” and that there was “limited” evidence the chemical could cause cancer in 2015. Other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, concluded there was not evidence or was insufficient evidence that the chemical causes cancer. 

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb determined the evidence that glyphosate causes cancer is not solid enough to require companies to include a warning on their labels and permanently enjoined the warning against glyphosate. Shubb ruled that plaintiffs prevailed on their First Amendment claim and proved they would suffer harm without an injunction. 

“Providing misleading or false labels to consumers also undermines California’s interest in accurately informing its citizens of health risks at the expense of plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” the judge said in his order.