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Warning Labels for Roundup — Coming Soon in California

By Jason Pfeifle
Public Health Advocate

Earlier this week California health officials announced that, starting on July 7, 2017, glyphosate — the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup — would be added to the state's list of cancer-causing chemicals. With this move, California has stepped up once again to be a leader in the fight to protect public health from harmful pesticides.

California health officials declared their intent to add glyphosate to California's Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals almost two years ago. Since then, Monsanto aggressively fought this proposal in the courts, effectively tying it up in legal proceedings and blocking it from moving forward. 

Despite Monsanto's attempts to keep consumers in the dark, California health officials have prevailed, and this victory is great news for consumers, workers, and any other people who might be exposed to this health-harming chemical.

Glyphosate is one of the most commonly used weed killers. It is not only sprayed regularly on public parks and school playgrounds in many communities across the state but also widely used on food grown in California. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, glyphosate is sprayed on 4 million acres of crops in California.

And mounting scientific evidence has shown that glyphosate poses significant risks to human health. In fact, in March of 2015, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization announced that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report, scientists cited evidence from studies showing that glyphosate has been linked to tumors in mice and rats and has caused DNA damage to human cells. Furthermore, a 2014 study found that exposure to low levels of glyphosate can result in significant liver and kidney damage. 

California health officials' decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer is an important step forward for public health and our right to know. 

What it means is that products containing glyphosate, i.e. products like the weed killer Roundup, will soon have to carry a warning label informing consumers about the serious health risks of this product. As I pointed out in the San Diego Union Tribune, this sort of label can lead people to think twice before buying Roundup at their local Home Depot or spraying the weed killer in their backyard, garden, or some other place where children might play.

What has yet to be determined is whether crops that have been sprayed with glyphosate will also require warning labels. This outstanding issue is likely to be resolved in the coming months.

We will continue to push for labeling requirements for glyphosate that help protect public health and that provide consumers with information they need to make decisions that are right for their health and the health of their families.

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