Judge: Roundup Products to Remain Warning Label-Free for Now

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) –A federal judge on Tuesday rejected California’s last-ditch effort to force agricultural company Monsanto to place warning labels on its Roundup products.

U.S. District Judge William Shubb said his February ruling, which enjoined California regulators from requiring Monsanto to use cancer warning labels, “speaks for itself.” He denied California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s motion to alter or amend the preliminary injunction order.

“The attorney general has not shown that the court clearly erred in reaching its conclusions or that the injunction is manifestly unjust,” Shubb said in a 10-page order. “Second, the attorney general’s ‘new evidence’ does not warrant reconsideration.”

In one of many lawsuits regarding the labeling of glyphosate products, Monsanto is fighting the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard’s decision that it would designate glyphosate as a carcinogen and subsequently require warning labels on retail products.

Accusing the state of citing shaky scientific evidence and First Amendment violations, Monsanto and several farm groups sued California last year. Monsanto says the Proposition 65 labels would amount to forced speech and damage its reputation with California consumers.

Glyphosate/Roundup is the most widely used agrichemical in history. Monsanto introduced it in 1974, and its use exploded after the company introduced “Roundup-ready” seeds — engineered to resist glyphosate — in 1996. Since then, Monsanto has gained billions more dollars from selling its patented Roundup-ready seeds than Roundup itself.

Shubb, the longest serving Eastern District judge appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, sided with Monsanto and granted the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. He said Monsanto is likely to succeed on its free speech argument.

“Where California seeks to compel businesses to provide cancer warnings, the warnings must be factually accurate and not misleading,” Shubb said in his February order. “As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading.”

Becerra fired back a month later, asking Shubb to reconsider the unfavorable ruling because of new evidence.

The attorney general largely based his reconsideration argument around a separate ruling in a California appeals court. In April, an appeals panel said the state acted appropriately when it classified glyphosate as a possible carcinogen despite basing the decision on findings from a foreign health organization study. The underlying decision did not address whether the warning labels violate the First Amendment.

Shubb denied the state’s motion to lift the preliminary injunction one day after oral arguments, scoffing at Becerra’s attempt to relate the state panel’s findings to the federal matter.

Becerra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monsanto’s co-plaintiff, the National Association of Wheat Growers, celebrated Shubb’s order and accused California of hatching a policy that would damage “American farmers.”

“The facts and science are on our side which show that glyphosate is safe for use. Farmers and growers are defending U.S. agriculture against California’s false and misleading Proposition 65 labeling requirement, and maintaining this preliminary injunction is another win for them,” said wheat growers’ CEO Chandler Goule in a statement.

Monsanto’s brand will soon disappear as it was sold to the German company Bayer for $63 billion. Bayer will still produce Monsanto’s existing products but will discontinue the name.

 

 

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