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US EPA seeks partial rehearing of Ninth Circuit glyphosate ruling

19 August 2022 Akashpratim Mukhopadhyay

The US EPA has petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a partial rehearing of the latter's June ruling that ordered it to reconsider a 2020 interim decision involving the herbicide, glyphosate, reports the American Soybean Association (ASA). The ruling by a three-judge panel had vacated the regulator's human health risk assessment on the active ingredient's carcinogenic properties, while sending back an ecological risk assessment for a re-evaluation to be completed by October 1st. The Agency has urged the Court to lift the deadline involving the latter half of the judgement.

Besides its human health concerns, glyphosate has been put in the dock for alleged harm to monarch butterflies, other pollinators and soil health. While the EPA's request for a voluntary remand of the ecological risk assessment was granted by the Court, it notes that finalising a consultation under the country's Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a multi-year process, which would be difficult to complete within the 106-day timeframe that the panel has granted. Furthermore, it states that such an assessment would require the Agency to consult the country's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service, neither of which are party to the lawsuit, nor are subject to the Court's order.

Citing its inability to comply with the existing directive, the Agency suggests vacating the interim decision altogether in case the Court does not relax the deadline. Alternatively, it proposes withdrawing the ecological risk assessment without scrapping the entire interim decision.

Legal predicament

While the ruling has no immediate impact on glyphosate uses, it could ultimately force the EPA to impose additional restrictions on the herbicide. The ai has courted controversy ever since the UN WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. The findings were subsequently dismissed by every regulatory body around the globe. But Bayer legacy business Monsanto was dragged into thousands of litigations in the US over allegations that its glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide was responsible for plaintiffs' cancer diagnoses.

The three-judge panel largely sided with environmentalist groups, agreeing that the regulator's interim decision violated the country's Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as well as the ESA. The EPA's interim decision found "no risks of concern" from glyphosate when used in accordance with federal labels and extended registrations for use on more than 100 food crops, including maize, soybeans, cotton, canola, and sugar beets that have been genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide.

US farmers annually use some 280 million lb (127 million kg) of glyphosate, while another 24 million lb are applied to non-agricultural sites, including 5 million lb sprayed by retail customers. The EPA acknowledged that there were some ecological risks from legal uses of glyphosate and revised federal labels to include mitigation measures to help farmers limit spray drift, protect pollinators, and reduce the potential for weeds to develop resistance to the herbicide.

Posted 19 August 2022 by Akashpratim Mukhopadhyay, Senior Journalist, Crop Science Market Reporting, S&P Global Commodity Insights



This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.

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