By Michael Castore
Glyphosate is the primary active ingredient in an herbicide released by Monsanto in 1970 which is best known to consumers by its trade name, “Roundup.” Monsanto’s patent on Glyphosate expired in 2000 which led to its wide proliferation in foreign and domestic markets due to the significant price decrease typically associated with the introduction of competition. In September 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a position paper preliminarily finding glyphosate to not likely be carcinogenic to humans. This conclusion is contrary to the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), among others, who have found glyphosate to likely be carcinogenic to humans.
Prior to this finding by the EPA, several lawsuits had been brought, primarily against Monsanto, claiming glyphosate has had negative carcinogenic effects on humans. The EPA’s position paper will likely have a significant effect on such plaintiffs, some of whom have based their pending suits on the IARC and WHO findings, by making it even more difficult to prove causation. However, this position is not final. The EPA is scheduled to release a human health and ecological risk assessment in the Spring of 2017. Before doing so, it will incorporate the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Panel and release a revised position for notice and comment. This provides everyday citizens with an opportunity to potentially change the EPA’s final position.
The debate as to whether glyphosate is or is not carcinogenic to humans is, if anything, inconclusive. As this chemical is applied to many food products consumed in the United States and abroad, it is paramount the issue be closely followed and intensely debated before a final position is issued. Look out for an update on the status of glyphosate on our blog in April.