WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a Trump administration finding that the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup does not pose a serious health risk and is “not likely” to cause cancer in humans.
California’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reexamine its 2020 finding that glyphosate did not pose a health risk for people exposed to it by any means — on farms, yards or roadsides or as residue left on food crops.
Roundup’s active ingredient, Glyphosate, is one of the most popular herbicides in the world. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which acquired the herbicide’s original producer Monsanto in 2018, is facing thousands of claims from people who say Roundup exposure caused their cancer.
Roundup will continue to be sold. According to an agency spokesman, EPA officials are reviewing the 54-page ruling “and will decide next steps.″ The Supreme Court is also considering whether to hear an appeal from Bayer that could shut down thousands of lawsuits on the cancer claims.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Michelle Friedland said EPA’s finding of no risk to human health “was not supported by substantial evidence.” She also ruled that EPA fell short of its obligations under the Endangered Species Act by inadequately examining glyphosate’s impact on animal species and vegetation.
Legal critics said EPA “shirked its duties under the Endangered Species Act. We agree and remand to the agency for further consideration,″ wrote Friedland, a nominee of former President Barack Obama.
The Center for Food Safety, one of the groups that challenged the decision, called Friday’s ruling “a historic victory for farmworkers and the environment.”
The decision “gives voice to those who suffer from glyphosate’s cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the center.
“EPA’s ‘no cancer’ risk conclusion did not stand up to scrutiny,” she said. “The court agreed that EPA needed to ensure the safety of endangered species before greenlighting glyphosate.”
Although the EPA claims it did not find any evidence that glyphosate could cause cancer, California and other states listed it as a risk. Local governments have also restricted their use. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic.”
Bayer last year announced that it will remove glyphosate in the U.S. residential grass-and-garden market, starting as soon as 2023.
Bayer said in a statement Friday night that EPA’s 2020 conclusion “was based on a rigorous assessment of the extensive body of science spanning more than 40 years.” The company believes that EPA “will continue to conclude, as it and other regulators have consistently concluded for more than four decades, that glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and are not carcinogenic,” the statement said.
Last year, Bayer set aside $4.5 billion to deal with the claims that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. In the past, the company was responsible for nearly $10 million in litigation charges.
“EPA’s failure to act on the science, as detailed in the litigation, has real-world adverse health consequences for farmworkers, the public and ecosystems,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a plaintiff in the case. “Because of this lawsuit, the agency’s obstruction of the regulatory process will not be allowed to stand.”
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