Monsanto stepped up its defense of a widely used weed killer by filing a lawsuit in California seeking to prevent glyphosate, the main ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, from being added to the state’s list of known carcinogens.
The seed and agrochemicals company said it filed the suit against the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the agency’s acting director, Lauren Zeise, in California state court, according to the filing.
California law requires the state to keep a list of cancer-causing chemicals to inform residents of their risks.
OEHHA said in September that it planned to add glyphosate to the list after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a probable human carcinogen last March.
Monsanto has disputed assessment, citing decades of studies deeming glyphosate safe, including a 2007 study by OEHHA that concluded the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.
“The IARC classification of glyphosate is inconsistent with the findings of regulatory bodies in the United States and around the world, and it is not a sound basis for any regulatory action,” said Phil Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.
The company said the members of IARC were hand-picked, conducted their assessment in a non-transparent process, and selectively included and interpreted only a subset of the data available on glyphosate.
Glyphosate is “an efficient, effective and safe tool for weed control” and California should “uphold its own science-based conclusions,” Miller added.
Monsanto’s lawsuit argues that listing glyphosate under Proposition 65, as the state’s law is known, based on IARC’s classification cedes regulatory authority to an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body,” which is not subject to oversight by any state or federal entity.
Monsanto argues that the lack of oversight violates the company’s right to procedural due process under California and United States law.
Roundup is used by farmers throughout the world in more than 140 countries, generating Monsanto US$4.8 billion in fiscal 2015 revenue. Genetically modified seeds designed to tolerate glyphosate are immensely popular among corn and soybean growers.
But questions from environmentalists and other critics about the safety of the herbicide have dogged Monsanto for years.
Since IARC’s classification last year, Monsanto has been named in numerous lawsuits accusing the company of knowing of the dangers of glyphosate for decades. Colombia, for example, decided to stop spraying it on coca fields, the Netherlands has prohibited the product over health fears, France temporarily banned the sale and Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the order to ban its use.