April 13, 2016 — Monsanto has lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a man with lymphoma who says the weed-killer Roundup is a carcinogen that lacks adequate warnings about cancer.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed on February 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Case No. 3:16-cv-00525) by Edward Hardeman, a resident of Sonoma County who used Roundup for decades to control poison oak and weeds on his property.
Hardeman accuses Monsanto of failing to warn that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a known carcinogen. He claims it caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that forms in white blood cells.
Monsanto argued that failure-to-warn claims were preempted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). However, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria disagreed, ruling that Hardeman’s claims were not preempted because FIFRA requires “adequate” warnings. In an order (PDF) issued on April 8, the judge wrote:
“In this light, it’s hard to see how Hardeman’s failure-to-warn claims could ‘be construed more broadly than’ FIFRA. Indeed, Hardeman’s complaint explicitly bases his California-law failure-to-warn claims on Monsanto’s alleged violation of FIFRA.”
Monsanto also argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Roundup product labels. Judge Chhabria said that having an EPA-approved label should not stop private litigation because it “does not prevent a jury from finding that that same label violates FIFRA.”
Evidence linking Roundup and cancer has been growing for decades. Last year, the cancer research agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) called Roundup a “probable human carcinogen” based on three studies in different parts of the world linking it to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In September 2015, the California Environmental Protection Agency listed glyphosate as “known to the state to cause cancer” under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65).
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