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EPA Now Says Monsanto Roundup 'Likely' Does Not Cause Cancer, Debate Continues

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Advocates of the herbicide Roundup were cheered by an EPA opinion last month that glyphosate, the active ingredient, likely does not cause cancer. But the debate, and the Roundup lawsuits are far from over.

Washington, DCThere is little doubt that the cloud which has been lingering for some time over Monsanto Roundup, billed as one of the most popular herbicides on the globe, remains controversial over continuing debate that Monsanto Roundup causes cancer: and specifically, the active ingredient known as glyphosate.

Or does it?

A moral victory for Monsanto and Roundup advocates came as an early Christmas present on December 18 of last year from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an opinion that glyphosate "likely" does not cause cancer and thus is not a threat to people.

"Glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans," the EPA said. "The agency's assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label," the EPA said in its statement. [Our] scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries."

The EPA is not without criticism

According to a report from Reuters (12/20/17) glyphosate has been a staple in the agricultural community for some 40 years. It is also used for golf courses and residential lawns to control weeds. However, various health advocates have come down hard on glyphosate as a potential carcinogenic and a trigger for non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Their cause was bolstered in 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an offshoot of the World Health Organization, issued an opinion that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic."

A flurry of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits soon followed. Such litigation was bolstered even further amidst allegations that an operative in a senior portfolio with the EPA was friendly with Monsanto and suggested via internal emails that he would attempt to squash, or inject bias into an internal EPA investigation into the potential for cancer associated with glyphosate. That individual is now retired from the EPA, as the agency continues with an internal probe into the matter.

Roundup lawsuits have not been confined to plaintiffs alleging health problems associated with exposure to glyphosate. In November of last year Monsanto joined with a number of agriculture industry groups in litigation against the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for the State of California with regard to its inclusion of glyphosate in a registry of carcinogens and other hazardous materials. The plaintiffs in that lawsuit (National Association of Wheat Growers et al. v. Lauren Zeise et al., Case No.2:17-at-01224, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California) claimed that targeting glyphosate and Roundup in such fashion ignored "overwhelming scientific evidence."

Glyphosate remains for now in the European Union amidst a tight vote

Critics of glyphosate have until recently been looking towards the European Union for hoped-for support, as the EU - and specifically the European Commission - had been embroiled in a years-long debate as to whether, or not glyphosate is a trigger for cancer and the implications were the EC to renew the license for glyphosate. Reuters reports it was a tight vote.

That license was set to expire this past December. In the end, the EC voted to renew the license for glyphosate for another five years.

It is not known what impact that renewal might have - together with the Roundup lawsuits - on California's decision to maintain glyphosate as a likely carcinogen on its hazardous materials registry.


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