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Daily News Blog

19
Dec

Groups Petition EPA to Remove from the Market the Weed Killer Glyphosate

Bottle of RoundUp (glyphosate) next to scales of Justice

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2023) Last week, farmworker organizations and Beyond Pesticides, represented by the Center for Food Safety, filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging that the weed killer glyphosate be removed from the market. The petition cites 200 studies, which represent a fraction of the independent scientific literature on the hazards of glyphosate and formulation ingredients of glyphosate products. This action follows previous litigation in 2022 in which a federal court of appeals struck down EPA’s human health assessment, finding that the agency wrongfully dismissed glyphosate’s cancer risk. The farmworker groups petitioning include Farmworker Association of Florida, Organización en California de Lideres Campesinas, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, and the Rural Coalition.  

Meanwhile, verdicts against glyphosate’s manufacturer, Bayer, continue to pile up with a December jury verdict in Pennsylvania awarding $3.5 million and a November jury in Missouri ordering $1.56 billion to be paid to four plaintiffs. All link their cancer to use of the Roundup. Bayer has lost almost all of the cases filed against it for compensation and punitive damages associated with plaintiffs’ charge that its product (previously manufactured by Monsanto) caused them harm. 

The petition summarizes its purpose and justification as follows: 

“This Petition seeks to immediately suspend and cancel all glyphosate registrations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with regulating pesticides in the United States, pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §136 et seq. In accordance with FIFRA, EPA can register a pesticide only upon determining that it will cause no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice. Id. § 136a(c)(5)(A)-(D). To remain registered, a pesticide must continue to meet this FIFRA safety standard. To ensure this, EPA is required to periodically review pesticide registrations in light of new science and uses. Id. § 136a(g)(1)(A). EPA began this review process for glyphosate in 2009 and despite spending eleven years, produced a review decision that was vacated by the Ninth Circuit because it was deemed insufficient with regard to its human health assessment and cancer classification decision. EPA subsequently withdrew the remainder of glyphosate’s registration review decision, but has taken no further action. The result is that today, glyphosate remains registered despite no demonstration by EPA that it can meet the required FIFRA safety standard for this herbicide’s currently approved uses. In other words, glyphosate as it’s currently used has no legal safety assessment on record.” 

“The threat of glyphosate is way outside the bounds of any reasonable person’s definition of acceptable harm, surpasses allowable risk under federal pesticide law, and represents the poster child for what has gone dangerously wrong with EPA’s program to control toxic pesticides in our environment, homes, workplaces, and communities, with disproportionate injury to farmworkers and landscapers,” said Jay Feldman, executive director, Beyond Pesticides. “This petition attempts to hold EPA accountable to the rule of law, while recognizing that glyphosate, which causes adverse effects to biological systems—from soil microbiota to the gut microbiome, can be replaced by cost-effective organic food production and land management of parks, playing fields, or lawns.” 

In June 2022, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down a ruling that held EPA’s 2020 approval of glyphosate was  unlawful.In the Ninth Circuit decision, the court voided EPA’s “interim registration review” decision approving continued use of glyphosate, issued in early 2020. “EPA did not adequately consider whether glyphosate causes cancer and shirked its duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” the court wrote in its opinion. 

The court held that EPA unlawfully concluded that glyphosate does not pose a cancer risk. Despite overwhelming evidence and Bayer’s high profile lawsuits, EPA came to “no conclusion” on glyphosate’s connection to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Notably, the agency did not assess how much glyphosate gets into a user’s bloodstream after skin contact with the herbicide, a major route of exposure for the chemical. Skin irritation was noted as one of the initial concerns for Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the school groundskeeper who won the first legal case against Bayer/Monsanto after contracting NHL.   

“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 (N-phosphono-methyl glycine) is associated with a wide range of illnesses, including cancer—non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), genetic damage, liver and kidney damage, endocrine disruption, as well as environmental damage, including water contamination and harm to amphibians. Glyphosate has been associated with antibiotic resistance, adverse impacts on the gut biome, and damage to soil microbiota that is critical to soil cycling of nutrients. Researchers have also determined that the “inert” ingredients in glyphosate products, especially polyethoxylated tallow amine or POEA —a surfactant commonly used in glyphosate and other herbicidal products—are even more toxic than glyphosate itself. Monsanto, manufacturer of glyphosate, formulates many products such as Roundup™ and Rodeo™ and markets formulations exclusively used on genetically engineered (GE) crops.  

Glyphosate, cited as the most widely used herbicide in the world, is used in agriculture, most commonly in genetically engineered (GE) crop production, and throughout communities for weed control. In a statement of concern, “Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement,” the scientists writing find: “Genetically engineered crops with tolerance to glyphosate are widely grown, and their use has led to increased application of GBHs [glyphosate-based herbicides]. This increased use has contributed to widespread growth of glyphosate-resistant weeds. To combat the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds, GE plant varieties have been approved for commercial use that are resistant to multiple herbicides, including several older compounds that are possibly more toxic and environmentally disruptive than GBHs (for example, 2,4-D and dicamba).” 

Bayer announced in August 2021 that it would stop selling glyphosate in its formulation of home and garden products in 2023. However, it is widely known that other manufacturers/formulators may pick up active ingredients for its products that have been withdrawn from the market by the basic manufacturer. See DN on aldicarb 

Given the issues associated with the ingredients in glyphosate (Roundup) formulations, advocates and scientists remain deeply concerned about EPA’s rejection in October 2023 (after six years), of a citizen petition requesting that the agency evaluate complete formulations of pesticide products, not just the ingredients the manufacturer claims attack the target pest (so-called “active” ingredients). Nowhere in EPA’s denial of the need for a more robust toxicological analysis is the problem more evident than in its refusal to require analyses of the so-called “inert ingredients” or “adjuvants” included in various formulations of pesticide products. The citizen petition [see more background] was followed by a lawsuit for the same purpose in 2022. Inerts and formulants are substances that enhance the distribution or adhesion of the active ingredient; adjuvants enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredient. These terms suggest that those chemicals have no effect on anything in the area where the pesticide is applied—a wildly inaccurate implication. At least as early as 1987, EPA had recognized that some inerts and adjuvants were “of toxicological concern,” yet it still requires very few toxicological tests of whole-formula pesticides or their purportedly inactive components. 

While the agrichemical industry continues argue that chemical-intensive farming is needed for higher yields, the data says that is not the case. See Research on organic agriculture shows it can  provide quadruple the performance, synergizing financial, human health, ecological, and socio-economic well-being. See Beyond Pesticides webpage on  Organic Agriculture for more information. Additionally, toxic herbicides are not needed for beautiful turf systems, whether playing fields, parks, school yards, or open space. Please see Parks for a Sustainable Future and join with Beyond Pesticides to convert community parks and playing fields to organic land management. 

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides. 

Source: Farmworkers, Environmental Groups File Legal Action Demanding Roundup Ban 

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