Mary Sheppard

Managing Editor 

On Thursday, January 21st, the giant agrochemical company, Monsanto Corporation, filed for legal action against California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHNNA) over their decision to label Monsanto’s best-selling product as a known carcinogen.

The State of California’s decision would add glyphosate, Monsanto’s weed killer widely known for its commercial name “Roundup”, to the state’s list of known cancer-causing chemicals. This list was created as a result of Proposition 65, which is a law intended to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. In addition to the state adding glyphosate on its list, Monsanto would be required to label their product with a warning stating that it is known to cause cancer. OEHNNA based its decision on the results of a research study conducted last March by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, in which it was determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Nathan Donley, PhD in cellular biology and staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco, says that, “California is taking an important step toward protecting people and wildlife from this toxic pesticide. It’s nearly impossible for people to limit exposure to this toxin because it is just so widespread. That’s why we need much tighter controls on its use.”

According to Monsanto’s lawsuit, the company sees the Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “foreign body” that is “unelected”, “undemocratic”, and “unacceptable.” The company also says that requiring them to label their product as a known carcinogen is going to “damage their reputation”.

Critics say there has already been growing dissent among many other nations against Monsanto’s products, including Sri Lanka, Brazil, Bulgaria, Bermuda, Hungary, Russia, China, The Netherlands, El Salvador, Germany, Poland, Columbia, Peru, France, Mexico, and particularly Argentina, whose Chaco region has seen birth defect rates quadruple within the first decade of using Monsanto’s agrochemical products, according to the Huffington Post. Because of this, over 30,000 doctors and health professionals in Argentina are fighting to have glyphosate banned, blaming it for “spontaneous abortions, skin disease, respiratory illness, and neurological disease”, according to Argentina’s Union of medical professionals known as FESPROSA.

In Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena recently banned glyphosate due to “rising rates of chronic kidney disease throughout the Sri Lanka farming community”. Similarly in the Netherlands, the Dutch parliament banned the sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based products in order to “protect citizens from carcinogenic glyphosate”, according to

In France, a 2012 lawsuit found Monsanto guilty of the chemical poisoning of 47-year old farmer Paul Francois. Francois blames Monsanto’s Lasso weed killer and the company’s failure to provide warning labels on their products for his neurological problems of memory loss, headaches, and stammering, which began upon his unintentional inhalation of the product while farming in 2004.

For the year of 2013, the glyphosate usage on farm crops in Connecticut was surveyed. It was found that New London County used 6,479 lbs. of the herbicide, Windham County used 6,064 lbs., Litchfield County used 5,808 lbs., Tolland County used 5,096 lbs., Hartford County used 3,566 lbs., New Haven County used 1,728 lbs., Middlesex County used 493 lbs., and Fairfield County used the least of all at 380 lbs., according to

According to Donley, “Monsanto’s decision to sue California and attack the most well-respected cancer research agency in the world, the IARC, is absurd…Why would California use anything other than the gold standard to inform its public health decisions?” The case is Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al, case number 16-CECG-00183 in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Fresno. The state has not yet filed an answer.