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Court rejects Trump-era EPA finding that weed killers are safe

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a Trump administration decision that the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup poses no serious health risk and is “unlikely” to cause cancer in humans.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review its 2020 finding that glyphosate poses no health risk to people exposed to it in any way — on farms, yards or roadsides, or as residues on food crops.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which acquired the herbicide’s original maker Monsanto, in 2018, is facing thousands of lawsuits from people who say Roundup exposure caused their cancer.

Roundup will continue to be available for sale. According to an agency spokesman, EPA officials are reviewing the 54-page ruling “and will decide on next steps.”

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Writing for a unanimous three-person panel, Judge Michelle Friedland rejected the EPA’s finding of no risk to human health. It also ruled that EPA had failed in its obligations under the Endangered Species Act by inadequately researching glyphosate’s effects on animal species and vegetation.

Legal critics said the EPA “evaded its obligations under the Endangered Species Act. We agree and refer to the agency for further investigation,” wrote Friedland, a nominee for former President Barack Obama.

The Center for Food Safety, one of the groups challenging the decision, called Friday’s ruling “a historic victory for farm workers and the environment.”

The decision “gives a voice to those suffering from glyphosate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Amy van Saun, lead counsel for the center.

“The EPA’s ‘no cancer’ conclusion has not stood up to scrutiny,” she said. “The court agreed that the EPA must ensure the safety of endangered species before giving the green light to glyphosate.”

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While the EPA said it found no evidence of a cancer risk from glyphosate, the Biden administration has said it will re-examine the issue. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic.”

Bayer announced last year that it would phase out glyphosate from the U.S. lawn and garden market by 2023.

A Bayer spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But the company argues in court that federal regulators have repeatedly found its products to be safe and that lawsuits based on claims under state law should be dismissed.

Last year, Bayer committed $4.5 billion to deal with claims that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. The company had previously accepted nearly $10 billion in fees for previous lawsuits.

“EPA’s failure to act on the basis of the science described in the lawsuit has real adverse health consequences for farmworkers, the public and ecosystems,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a plaintiff in the case . “Due to this lawsuit, the obstruction of the regulatory process by the authority must not continue.”

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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/17/court-rejects-trump-era-epa-finding-that-weed-killer-safe/ Court rejects Trump-era EPA finding that weed killers are safe

Sarah Y. Kim

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