Trump’s EPA Backs Bayer’s Appeal in Roundup Verdict Appeal
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added its weight to back Bayer AG in its appeal against a federal jury verdict that decided its Roundup weed killer causes cancer, according to Bloomberg.
Bayer is looking to overturn a verdict that first awarded a plaintiff $80 million, but was reduced to $25 million by a federal judge, in a suit that claimed the world's most popular herbicide caused a man's non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The EPA, working with the U.S. Department of Justice, filed papers in court on Friday fully and unequivocally supporting Bayer's claim that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, does not cause cancer, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
When the U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria cut the jury reward in the spring, he refused to overturn the jury's findings that Roundup should have been sold with a cancer warning on the label. The EPA, however, said in papers that it had vetted and approved the Roundup warning label issued by Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018 for about $63 billion, and it did not require a cancer warning, as Bloomberg reported.
The filings by the EPA and Justice Department said that Monsanto, and subsequently Bayer, could not print a cancer-risk warning on its label because the EPA has the sole authority over warning labels on chemical products and the EPA would not have approved a cancer warning on Roundup labels, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"That label, once reviewed and approved by EPA, is controlling," the agency said, as Bloomberg reported. "States cannot impose distinct labeling requirements."
In August, the EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency would not allow a cancer-risk warning on glyphosate-based herbicides, saying it was tantamount to false labeling since the EPA had deemed it safe, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
"EPA has a longstanding position—It's not just this administration which determined that this pesticide does not cause cancer," said Jeffrey Clark, the assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Justice Department in an interview, to The Wall Street Journal. "EPA should be in control. Congress set it up that way."
In its appeal, Bayer alleged that Chhabria made several errors and that the plaintiff's claims are preempted by federal law. Bayer claims that under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, it actually would have been misbranding to print a cancer-risk warning on a glyphosate-based product, according to IEG Policy Agribusiness.
Bayer is facing a mountain of litigation as there were 42,700 others suing the company over Roundup as of October, according to Bloomberg. So far, Bayer has lost three U.S. court cases where plaintiffs have claimed that long-term exposure to Roundup had caused their cancer. The company has postponed two trials in the U.S. while it works with a mediator to try to hammer out a settlement with the plaintiffs, as Bloomberg reported.
Legal scholars told The Wall Street Journal that the filing by the EPA and the Justice Department will stand out to the appeals court, and the federal government will often add its opinion when a case is based on the interpretation of a federal statute.
Bayer said in a statement to Bloomberg that it's pleased the EPA "expressed its views in this appeal, which are consistent with the preemption arguments we have made throughout this case."
Aimee Wagstaff, the lawyer for Edwin Hardeman, the plaintiff, emailed a statement to Bloomberg that said the EPA's filing reflected a desperation move by Bayer that has been rejected by several state and federal judges. "The EPA's brief doesn't change the law," she wrote.
"We are confident the Ninth Circuit will also reject Monsanto's argument and rule in favor of Mr. Hardeman," she added, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
The appeals court judges "may not ultimately agree with the side the government is supporting for other reasons," said Ben Feuer, an appellate lawyer in San Francisco, as The Wall Street Journal reported, but the agency's brief "is going to be closely parsed and they will engage with it."
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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