I have my general gripes about California, but here and there I am pleasantly surprised by some pro-environmental health policies. Like the existence of Prop 65.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has an impactful program to list chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity on a list called Prop 65. When you start looking for the Prop 65 warnings on products, it can be quite horrifying. I once was looking for a neck pillow in an airport shop at SFO prior to a long-haul flight, and every single option had a Prop 65 warning label. So I begrudgingly settled for an embarrassing bobbing head and gaping open mouth instead of placing a carcinogen around my neck, and provided my family with an excellent opportunity to take blackmail photos of me at my finest.
OEHHA decides which chemicals will be listed based on the scientific reports from organizations that have been designated as “authoritative bodies”. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen in 2015, is one such body.
Glyphosate currently resides on the Prop 65 list. Longtime readers will remember the frustration we all felt when Judge Bolanos wouldn’t allow the Plaintiff team in the Johnson trial to tell the jury that glyphosate was listed as a carcinogen on Prop 65, in their very own state! That was nuts.
Anyway, Monsanto managed to successfully keep the warning label off of the Roundup bottle by claiming that the label would go against their freedom of speech.
However, last year, shortly after Judge Chhabria recommended that Bayer put some kind of modified warning label on the Roundup product to help limit their liability, OEHHA began drafting suggested labels that would be acceptable to all parties, including the EPA. Public comments were opened.
The wording that was ultimately drafted read:
Using this product can expose you to glyphosate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. US EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans; other authorities have made similar determinations. A wide variety of factors affect your potential risk, including the level and duration of exposure to the chemical. For more information, including ways to reduce your exposure, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/glyphosate.
However, due to a recent decision in the Ninth Circuit Court that ordered the EPA to go back and reassess the carcinogenicity of and risk to human health from glyphosate, a comment period has been reopened. OEHHA added two US EPA Glyphosate documents to the record, and asked for the public to address those documents.
The following is my comment. Please use this opportunity to make your own comments – I believe there is finally a chance to get a real cancer warning label placed on the product given the renewed fragility of the US EPA’s determination that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer.
More information and instructions for comment submissions can be found here.
Comment sent to OEHHA
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the two EPA Glyphosate papers.
The EPA based its regulatory decision regarding the carcinogenicity of glyphosate on faulty, ghostwritten research that was bought by Monsanto for use in regulatory decisions. Those ghostwritten research papers are still listed in the EPA Glyphosate Issue Paper.
Specifically, Monsanto decided to counter the IARC determination that glyphosate is a likely human carcinogen by hiring a consultant panel of scientists to publish a series of review papers to disprove the IARC findings. Chief of Regulatory Science William Heydens said “We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro, 2000.” Indeed, in 2000 Monsanto hired consulting firm Intertek, which paid Williams and Kroes for their willingness to claim authorship. That study is listed in the 2017 Issue Report.
Williams GM, Kroes R, Munro IC. Safety evaluation and risk assessment of the herbicide Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, for humans. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2000 Apr;31(2 Pt 1):117-65. doi: 10.1006/rtph.1999.1371. PMID: 10854122.
Link to internal Monsanto discussion: https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/documents/pdf/monsanto-documents/key-documents-pages-203-4.pdf
A second study that also has been revealed as ghostwritten by Monsanto is also on the list of research considered by the EPA.
Greim H, Saltmiras D, Mostert V, Strupp C. Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2015 Mar;45(3):185-208. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423. Epub 2015 Feb 26. PMID: 25716480; PMCID: PMC4819582.
Link to the proof that it was ghostwritten lies in an internal Monsanto document from an employee self-evaluation report: https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/documents/pdf/monsanto-documents/18-monsanto-scientist-admits-to-ghostwriting-cancer-review-paper.pdf
Furthermore, the EPA has not appropriately accounted for recent research, including that from members of the 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel to the EPA that concluded that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides is linked with increased risk of developing NHL. They chose to ignore the opinions of the FIFRA mandated SAP assessing the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.
See the meta-analysis from SAP scientist Dr. Luoping Zhang:
Zhang L, Rana I, Shaffer RM, Taioli E, Sheppard L. Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides and risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A meta-analysis and supporting evidence. Mutat Res Rev Mutat Res. 2019 Jul-Sep;781:186-206. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2019.02.001. Epub 2019 Feb 10. PMID: 31342895; PMCID: PMC6706269.
Therefore, it is critical that California not fold to this labeling, because claiming that the EPA does not believe glyphosate to be a carcinogen is inaccurate. Glyphosate would have been taken off the market years ago without protection from:
- Ghostwritten research
- The EPA’s willingness to ignore their own SAP panel
- The EPA’s refusal to follow their own rules in animal toxicity studies
Given the recent decision in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals that the EPA must vacate their finding on risk to human health, it is disingenuous to tell California consumers that the EPA doesn’t believe that glyphosate causes cancer. We know that they in fact are aware of its carcinogenicity, and are opting to let people continue to risk their lives in using this product.