Monsanto Labeling Suit Advances in Washington

WASHINGTON (CN) – Explaining why he advanced a labeling challenge to the weedkiller Roundup, a federal judge said Monday that there is enough evidence at this stage to support the claim that Monsanto misleads consumers.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, issued his opinion about a month after promising to explain himself on March 31 when he rejected Monsanto’s motion to dismiss.

The groups Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association brought the underlying suit in April 2017, saying Roundup labels falsely claim that glyphosate, a key ingredient,- “targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.”

Insisting that the enzyme does in fact exist in the animal gut bacteria, and that Monsanto knows that, the groups say Monsanto’s deceptive labeling conceals glyphosate’s potential health effects from consumers.

“The court concludes that Plaintiffs have adequately pleaded a claim that the statement at issue was false or misleading,” Kelly wrote Monday.

Kim Richman, who represents the advocacy groups, has not immediately returned an email seeking comment on the opinion.

The Monday ruling points to a similar Roundup case that is advancing in the Eastern District of New York.

As quoted by Kelly, that court had said in 2016: “defendants cannot dispute that the label’s statement that the enzyme at issue is ‘found in plants, but not in people’ is, at least on one reading, literally false.”

Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association originally filed the lawsuit in the D.C. Superior Court, alleging violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Kelly disagreed with Monsanto that the suit at issue exceeded the statute of limitations.

“Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be dismissed as time-barred because, at the very least, claims regarding sales of Roundup in the last three years are timely,” the 17-page ruling states.

Kelly did say Monsanto could challenge the timeliness of some of the claims while briefing the court at the summary-judgment stage.

Attorneys for Monsanto with Winston & Strawn, Adam Nadelhaft and John Rosenthal, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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