The “victims’ rights bar” is faced with a new challenge: how to convince a jury that a widely used weed control product causes cancer even though after decades of study, the federal agency responsible for regulating the product has concluded that the product “is not a carcinogen,” and that “there are no risks of concern to human health” when the product is used properly.
Last August I blogged about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that it no longer will approve product labels claiming that glyphosate—the most widely used weed control product in the United States—is known to cause cancer. EPA indicated that such a glyphosate label warning would be a “false claim.” My blog explained that because such a false claim would result in a “misbranded” pesticide product label, federal law preempts any contrary state-imposed requirement for labeling. That would include, for example, a glyphosate label warning arising out of California’s Proposition 65 “right to know” law. Federal law also would preempt a state tort suit imposing a glyphosate cancer warning label requirement.
Now EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has announced that “[a]fter a thorough review of the best available science . . . EPA has concluded that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.” Further, “[t]he agency is requiring additional mitigation measures to help farmers target pesticide sprays to the intended pest and reduce the problem of increasing glyphosate resistance in weeds.”
Who knows better? An expert federal regulatory agency whose scientists, like others around the world, have reviewed thousands of scientific studies about glyphosate? Or lay juries handpicked by contingency-fee lawyers whose ubiquitous TV commercials troll for hapless cancer victims?