Monsanto not required to put cancer warning label on its Roundup weed killer.
By Tilton Adler
In an unsettling albeit not entirely unsurprising decision by California’s Eastern District Court, Senior Judge William B. Shubb ruled in favor of repeat offender Bayer AG subsidiary Monsanto. In National Association of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Zeise, et al., he ruled that California is permanently barred from requiring glyphosate-based products including Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer to be labeled as cancer-causing, under California’s Proposition 65.
The ruling is especially controversial, as glyphosate has been widely accepted by the public and many scientists as carcinogenic, though still under scientific debate with study findings apparently dependent upon which agency or group has funded the research. In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined glyphosate could “probably” cause cancer. But in 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a risk of cancer “does not exist” and, later, that “no risks . . . to human health exist” when the product is used according to label instructions. Judge Shubb said, “The great weight of evidence indicates that glyphosate is not known to cause cancer.”
On the other hand, in late June 2020, Monsanto was ordered to pay $10 billion to settle cancer lawsuits. Bayer was facing “tens of thousands of claims linking the weed-killer to cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” according to The New York Times. “Some of the money is set aside for future cases,” the Times added.
When Bayer bought Monsanto, it knew it was going to inherit these lawsuits. (Bayer paid $63 billion for Monsanto.) Journalist Patricia Cohen said, “The settlement covers an estimated 95,000 cases and includes $1.25 billion for potential future claims from Roundup customers who may develop . . . non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
But this case wasn’t really about whether or not glyphosate is toxic. Rather, it boiled down to whether Monsanto’s First Amendment and commercial “free speech rights” were being infringed upon by the people’s demand for the company to adhere to labeling requirements set forth under Proposition 65, which mandates that all products known to be hazardous or cancer-causing be labeled as such—another despicable example of the nation’s judicial system protecting the “rights” of corporations over consumers.
Proposition 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, became law in November 1986, when California voters approved it by a massive 63-37% margin.
In direct contradiction to the will of the people, however, the court’s ruling again reinforced that the corporation’s right to “free speech” is more vehemently protected than the right of consumers, voters, grassroots campaign organizers, and farmers in California and across the United States to know the dangers of a product and have those dangers clearly marked for consumers on the label.
How can juries and health experts deem again and again that Roundup causes cancer but one lone judge ban the obvious labeling requirements of Proposition 65? How many more examples of the judicial system being manipulated by corporate lobbyists, harming Americans in the pro cess, do we have to see before something is done? The cornerstone of our democracy is being eroded. Big Ag and big money pockets continue to silence the voices—and deleteriously affect the good health—of people around the globe, not just in the U.S.
Bayer AG’s lobbying budget for 2019 was $9.14 million, according to the investigative website “OpenSecrets.org.” That’s a lot of money to grease a lot of palms in a lot of places.