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Trump’s EPA Backs Bayer’s Appeal in Roundup Verdict Appeal

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Trump’s EPA Backs Bayer’s Appeal in Roundup Verdict Appeal
The Environmental Protection Agency West pictured in DC. Wally Gobetz / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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