California has a tendency to go a little crazy when it comes to cancer labels.
From matches to soda pop and Disneyland, California’s Proposition 65 requires labels on anything that is a possible carcinogen. More specifically, if a product or one of its parts could cause 1 person in 100,000 people to develop cancer after being exposed to it for 70 years, California requires companies to warn the consumer. There are currently over 900 chemicals on the expansive list, which is regularly updated.
But when California’s regulatory agencies sought to add glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up, to the list, farmers took legal action to stop it. This past week, a federal judge granted a temporary injunction, which remains in effect while the lawsuit is ongoing, preventing California from enforcing the label requirement. In the ruling, Judge Shubb found that the cancer label on glyphosate would be false and misleading because “a reasonable consumer would not understand that a substance is ‘known to cause cancer’ where only one health organization had found that the substance in question causes cancer and virtually all other government agencies and health organizations that have reviewed studies on the chemical had found there was no evidence that it caused cancer.”
Judge Shubb’s comments allude to the International Agency on Cancer Research’s controversial decision to list glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, despite the great weight of evidence. Ever since IARC’s decision, government health agencies around the world have concluded otherwise. The decision was also mired in corruption allegations.
But before you accuse the judge of being paid by Monsanto, consider that even the American Cancer Society thinks California’s labels go too far. According to the organization’s website on California labeling requirements, it explains:
Some of the substances listed by [California] can affect the reproductive systems of men and/or women. Others are thought to cause cancer. Scientists classify all of these cancer-related substances at least as probable carcinogens, meaning that they might cause cancer in some people. But not all of them are known carcinogens (known to cause cancer) by groups and experts outside the state of California. This means that not every compound labeled as a possible cancer-causing substance has been proven to the worldwide scientific community to actually cause cancer.
In other words, California’s label requirements include a whole lot of things that most cancer experts do not think pose a risk.
California has stated that the case will be moot “soon,” because it plans on establishing safe levels for glyphosate, which should virtually eliminate any cancer labeling requirements. For the record, however, the EPA already sets those types of tolerances. (You can read more about what that means here.) There is no reason for California to redo the work already done by federal agencies or to establish its own set of tolerances.
Judge Shubb’s decision was obviously the correct one. IARC’s classification was flimsy, at best. With all of the mounting evidence against it, one can’t help but think that California’s decision was more about an anti-GMO statement than anything else. Round-Up Ready crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to the application of Round-Up. Considering that Round-Up is a fairly benign herbicide, its link with GMOs (and likely the connection to Monsanto) is the only reason it has garnered so much attention. The anti-GMO activists have repeatedly failed to demonstrate that genetically modified crops are unsafe, so they turned their attention to the reason those crops were modified.
Congratulations to all of the organizations and farmers that are part of this lawsuit – you won the first round.