Environmental groups urged the Ninth Circuit at a hearing to vacate an interim decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that found glyphosate safe for use, arguing that the agency ignored evidence when making the decision and that vacating the move would rescind administrative approval for the ingredient in Roundup.
Amy Luisa van Saun, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety who also represents other farming and food groups including the Rural Coalition, told the panel during a remote hearing that the EPA’s decision violated both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act because its decision was not supported by substantial evidence, and the Endangered Species Act because the agency failed to make any an “effects determination” on the chemical’s impact on protected species.
FIFRA requires all pesticides sold or distributed in the United States to be registered by the EPA, a procedure whereby the potential human health and environmental effects of a pesticide are evaluated. Van Saun insisted at the hearing that even though the decision is an interim one, with a deadline for a final decision set for October, vacating would result in the chemical being unregistered.
The Center for Food Safety and other groups filed the legal challenge in March 2020 to the EPA’s s finding that glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s weedkiller Roundup, likely does not cause cancer. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network of North America also filed a challenge at the time, and the cases were later consolidated.
The interim decision at issue in the case examined the risks to human health as well as the ecological risks of glyphosate. The agency determined that glyphosate isn’t a human carcinogen and that the commonly used herbicide should continue to be used, albeit with some labeling and usage tweaks.
While the agency’s 2017 human health risk assessment found that the chemical probably doesn’t cause cancer, an accompanying ecological assessment did identify some risks, particularly to pollinator species like butterflies and bees.
But the petitioners say the EPA is ignoring the human health and environmental impacts of glyphosate, including the risk for cancer.
The controversial chemical has led to several lawsuits, including multidistrict litigation in California’s Northern District that accuses Bayer AG unit Monsanto of failing to warn consumers and regulators about the alleged risks of using its Roundup brand of weedkiller.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment included glyphosate on a list of chemicals known to the state as causing cancer based on the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s conclusion that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans.
Several juries have awarded plaintiffs big-money verdicts in lawsuits that alleged Roundup caused cancer.