A federal judge has ruled that California cannot require Bayer/Monsanto to include a cancer warning label on RoundUp because science does not support the assertion that the popular weed-killer is a human carcinogen.

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act requires warning labels on cancer-causing products. But almost all of the world’s leading chemical regulatory bodies have determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and one of the most commonly used herbicides, is not a human carcinogen.  On several occasions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asserted that glyphosate poses no public health risk. 

And, yet, lawyers have brought thousands of state and federal lawsuits against Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, blaming Roundup for plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Three runaway juries have found Bayer liable for $289 million, $80 million and $2 billion in damages. The verdicts are being appealed.

The lawsuits are premised on a widely criticized 2015 decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” based on animal studies that conflict with epidemiological studies of tens of thousands of agricultural workers that found no increased risk of cancer. According to Reuters, IARC scientists deliberately removed from the report studies that found glyphosate to be noncarcinogenic. And studies conducted after the IARC released its report have reaffirmed glyphosate’s safety for humans.

Last year, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on behalf of Bayer in a separate case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the EPA explained that it does not require a cancer warning on Roundup because such a warning “would be inconsistent with the agency’s scientific assessments of the carcinogenic potential of the product.”

On Monday, U.S. District Judge William Shubb issued a permanent injunction, stating that California can only require a private company to change its label if the statement is “purely factual and non-controversial.”

Shubb noted that “[p]roviding misleading or false labels to consumers” would  undermine the government’s interest in informing its citizens of actual health risks. 

Unfortunately, as Daniel Fisher notes in LegaNewsline.com:

the ruling doesn’t seem to be stopping Bayer from plans to settle a large percentage of the Roundup lawsuits. Reports this week say the company’s board is voting on a settlement of $8 billion to $10 billion.

That’s too bad because when companies settle frivolous lawsuits they only encourage more innovation-busting litigation down the road. 

To learn more about how frivolous lawsuits based on junk science harm consumers, read Independent Women’s Law Center’s Legal Policy Focus, She Blinded Me with Science and watch IWF’s short video HERE.