A groundbreaking legal action today calls on EPA to immediately suspend and cancel the dangerous herbicide glyphosate.
WASHINGTON—A groundbreaking legal action today calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately suspend and cancel the dangerous herbicide glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Glyphosate’s registration is illegal, says the petition filed by Center for Food Safety on behalf of itself, Beyond Pesticides, and four farmworker advocacy groups. Last year, in a lawsuit by the same nonprofits, a federal court of appeals struck down EPA’s human health assessment because the agency wrongfully dismissed glyphosate’s cancer risk. Today’s petition, calling for the cancellation and suspension of glyphosate’s registration, runs over 70 pages and includes more than 200 scientific citations.
“This petition is a blueprint for the Biden administration to do what the law and science require and finally cancel glyphosate’s registration,” said Pegga Mosavi, an attorney at the Center for Food Safety and counsel for the petitioners. “There is a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that glyphosate endangers public health, and poses cancer risks to farmers and other Roundup users. Glyphosate formulations are also an environmental hazard and have driven an epidemic of resistant weeds that plague farmers. After last year’s court decision, EPA has no legal legs to stand on. EPA must take action now.”
Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the world, with approximately 300 million pounds applied annually in the U.S. Yet EPA has declined to act despite the damage inflicted by glyphosate’s pervasive use. Numerous studies—including many sponsored by Monsanto—show that glyphosate has harmful effects on the liver, kidney, and reproductive system, and is a probable carcinogen linked specifically with the immune system cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bill Freese, science director at Center for Food Safety, noted, “EPA once acknowledged that glyphosate has adverse effects on the mammalian liver, kidney, and reproductive system, and might even cause cancer—effects that were first revealed in decades-old registrant studies. But as Monsanto sought ever wider uses for its blockbuster herbicide, EPA consigned those incriminating studies to regulatory oblivion, thus facilitating greater use, even as independent scientists confirmed the harms EPA now denies.”
Glyphosate formulations have also ravaged the environment, causing considerable drift damage to crops and wild plants. By decimating milkweed, glyphosate has been a major factor in the decline of the monarch butterfly, and many Roundup formulations are extremely toxic to amphibians. EPA itself has found that glyphosate is likely to adversely affect an incredible 93% of threatened and endangered species, and 96% of the critical habitat that supports them.
Today’s petition calls on the EPA to suspend glyphosate use until the agency can conclude the cancellation process or can demonstrate that glyphosate meets the required safety standards in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Cancellation would make the sale and use of any product containing the chemical illegal.
“Farmworker women and their families have experienced the damaging health effects of pesticides for far too long” said Mily Treviño-Sauceda, Executive Director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas. “EPA must protect the nation’s farmworkers and our environment by immediately suspending and cancelling all glyphosate registrations.”
The last time glyphosate was subject to a comprehensive re-evaluation was 1993, right before the explosion in use that accompanied Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops that are genetically engineered to resist glyphosate. Under federal law, EPA must review pesticide registrations every 15 years to determine whether they continue to meet the required safety standard—no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment—considering new science and current use patterns. EPA only began this registration review process for glyphosate in 2009, issuing an interim decision in 2020.
Despite spending eleven years on its review, EPA’s pesticide division was unable to reach a conclusion as to whether glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The agency nevertheless dismissed glyphosate’s overall cancer risk, deeming it “not likely” to cause cancer. NHL is the cancer linked to glyphosate in many epidemiology studies of farmers, and in assessments by scientists with EPA’s science division. It is also the cancer associated with glyphosate by the world’s foremost authority on carcinogens, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Many NHL sufferers who attributed their cancer to use of Roundup have won lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer.
In 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down EPA’s cancer and broader human health assessment of glyphosate, in a lawsuit brought by Center for Food Safety on behalf of the same petitioners. The court found EPA’s cancer assessment of glyphosate internally contradictory and violative of EPA’s own guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment. Similar criticisms were levied by an EPA-appointed expert Scientific Advisory Panel, and EPA scientists from outside the pesticide division.
As a result of the court’s decision, EPA lacks a legal human health assessment of glyphosate to support its current use. The court also remanded the ecological risk assessment of glyphosate to EPA, with a deadline to complete it. EPA failed to meet this deadline, and instead chose to withdraw the entire interim registration review decision. Congress subsequently extended EPA’s deadline for completing registration reviews of glyphosate and all other pesticides previously due for completion by October 2022 to October 2026.
Today, glyphosate remains registered based entirely on a three-decades old, 1993 assessment. This outdated assessment takes no account of the exponentially increased use of glyphosate that began with the mid-1990s introduction of glyphosate-resistant corn, soybeans, cotton, and other major crops; it also predates the thousands of incriminating scientific studies on glyphosate that have accumulated since 1993. Neither does this antiquated assessment account for the enormous costs imposed on farmers by this century’s glyphosate-resistant weed outbreak. For all of these reasons, EPA cannot meet the required safety standard for glyphosate’s currently approved uses, and must cancel its registration.