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Glyphosate Detected in Popular Breakfast Cereals

Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup, was recently in the news when a plaintiff was awarded $289 million in damages after developing cancer that was allegedly caused by long term exposure to glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup. This verdict was soon followed by a report by the Environmental Working Group announcing that traces of the herbicide were found in popular breakfast foods. Now questions about the safety of exposure to the chemical have resurfaced, even as evidence still suggests only a tenuous connection between the herbicide and cancer.

The chemical in question – glyphosate – has a long and convoluted history. It was added to the list of chemicals known to cause cancer by OEHHA in 2017. The listing of glyphosate by OEHHA was based on a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that concluded that the chemical was “probably” cancer-causing in humans. Monsanto brought an action against OEHHA over the listing of the chemical.

Court Rules Against Proposition 65 Warnings for Glyphosate

In 2018, a U.S. federal court judge temporarily prohibited the state from requiring that products containing glyphosate display a Proposition 65 cancer warning. The ruling was based on the conclusion that forcing a manufacturer to identify its products as carcinogenic violates the right to free speech if the label’s content is not unequivocally truthful. The court stated that the evidence pertaining to glyphosate fails to prove that it causes cancer and such factually erroneous statements may ultimately mislead the consumer.

Jury Finds that Glyphosate Contributed to Plaintiff’s Cancer

Despite these conclusions, a jury recently awarded a plaintiff a substantial victory after determining that Monsanto failed to notify him about the possible connection between glyphosate and cancer, which allegedly caused the plaintiff’s illness. Nevertheless, the decision declined to state that the chemical was the principal cause of the plaintiff’s cancer. In fact, the report by the IARC first establishing this link has been widely criticized and several follow up studies verify that exposure to glyphosate in low doses does not cause cancer.

New Study Now Finds Glyphosate in Popular Foods

New reports of glyphosate in breakfast cereals may be sounding alarm bells across the country, but many experts are advising consumers to approach the findings with caution. It is well established that glyphosate levels that remain in oats are substantially lower than regulatory limits allowed under the EPA. The report relied upon California’s stricter standards for chemical exposure to determine glyphosate levels in cereals. In California, the level of glyphosate regarded as safe for consumption is 60 times stricter than levels prescribed by the EPA. Adding to that level another “10-fold margin of safety,” the report concluded that consuming 0.01 milligrams of glyphosate daily would lead to a one-in-one million risk of being diagnosed with cancer in a lifetime. Still, with conflicting reports on the safety of glyphosate this issue is sure to be around for some time and these reports, alone, are unlikely to discourage aggressive Proposition 65 private enforcers.

Grimaldi Law Offices has been advising clients for over 20 years on chemical and product law. For knowledgeable advice and in-depth analysis on your Prop 65 compliance obligations, contact Grimaldi Law Offices at (415) 463-5186 or email us at [email protected].

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Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.