SAN FRANCISCO—Today, in a historic victory for farm workers and the environment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and its represented farmworker and conservation clients by overturning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision that the toxic pesticide glyphosate is safe for humans and imperiled wildlife. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto-Bayer’s flagship Roundup weed killer, the most widely used pesticide in the world.
Toxicity of Glyphosate
The 54-page opinion held the Trump administration’s 2020 interim registration of glyphosate to be unlawful. The reason is that the “EPA did not adequately consider whether glyphosate causes cancer and shirked its duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” Represented by the Center for Food Safety, the petitioners in the lawsuit included the Rural Coalition. That’s in addition to the Farmworker Association of Florida, Organización en California de Lideres Campesinas, and Beyond Pesticides. A consolidated case is led by Natural Resources Defense Council and includes Pesticide Action Network.
“Today’s decision gives voice to those who suffer from glyphosate’s cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety and lead counsel in the case. “EPA’s ‘no cancer’ risk conclusion did not stand up to scrutiny. Today is a major victory for farmworkers and others exposed to glyphosate. Imperiled wildlife also won today. The court agreed that EPA needed to ensure the safety of endangered species before greenlighting glyphosate.”
“We welcome and applaud the court on this significant decision,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator at the Farmworker Association of Florida, a plaintiff in the case. “While it comes too late for many farmworkers and landscapers who suffer after glyphosate exposure, we are grateful for the court’s ruling, and hope that now EPA will act quickly to protect future workers from illness and disease resulting from this toxic pesticide.”
EPA Disregards Data
As to its cancer conclusion, the court concluded that EPA flouted its own Cancer Guidelines. Moreover, ignoring the criticisms of its own experts. EPA’s “not likely to cause cancer” conclusion was inconsistent with the evidence before it. In the form of both epidemiological studies (real-world cancer cases) and lab animal studies. In addition to its lack of conclusion as to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk (cancer most tied to glyphosate). The court also concluded that EPA’s general “no cancer” decision was divorced from its own Guidelines. Moreover, experts when EPA selectively discounted evidence that glyphosate causes tumors in animals.
At various points the Court criticized EPA’s “disregard of tumor results;” its use of “bare assertions” that “fail to account coherently for the evidence;” making conclusions that do not “withstand scrutiny under the agency’s own framework,” and “fail[ing] to abide by” its cancer guidelines. In sum, the court noted EPA’s “inconsistent reasoning” made its decision on cancer “arbitrary,” and struck it down.
“We are grateful that the court decided in our favor,” said John Zippert, chairperson of the Rural Coalition, a plaintiff in the case. “We need to halt glyphosate’s devastating impact on the farm workers and farmers who suffer the deepest consequences of exposure. This decision will hopefully hasten the transition to farming and gardening methods and practices that increase resilience, protecting our children, our planet, and all those who feed us.”
“EPA’s failure to act on the science, as detailed in the litigation, has real-world adverse health consequences for farmworkers, the public, and ecosystems,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a plaintiff in the case. “Because of this lawsuit, the agency’s obstruction of the regulatory process cannot stand. And EPA should start shifting food production to available alternative non- and less-toxic practices and materials that meet its statutory duty.”
The court went on to conclude that EPA’s decision also violated the Endangered Species Act. As the court noted, EPA itself elsewhere had admitted that “glyphosate ‘may affect’ all listed species experiencing glyphosate exposure. That is 1,795 endangered or threatened species” yet had unlawfully ignored the ESA for this decision.
As to remedy, the court struck down or vacated the human health assessment. The court also required that EPA redo and/or finish all remaining glyphosate determinations. That’s by an October 2022 deadline, or within four months. This includes a redone ecological toxicity assessment and a redone costs analysis of impacts to farmers from pesticide harm. That’s in addition to all Endangered Species analysis and mitigation.
Source: Center for Food Safety