By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On July 12, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Court) issued an opinion in Carson v. Monsanto that reverses a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (District Court) that the Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim under Georgia law was preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The Plaintiff alleged that Monsanto’s label for its product Roundup®, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, did not have adequate warning of the “harmful nature of glyphosate under Georgia law.” The District Court ruled that FIFRA preempts Georgia law and Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans and approved the Roundup label. Plaintiff appealed.
The Court found that the District Court erred in concluding that the Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted under FIFRA. In its Opinion, the Court stated that a common-law cause of action, such as the failure to warn claim under Georgia law, would be preempted “if two conditions are met: 1) the state requirement must be for ‘labeling or packaging’ under the language of the statute; and 2) the state requirement is ‘in addition to or different from’ requirements derived from FIFRA.” The Court found that EPA’s registration process “is not sufficiently formal to carry with it the force of law” and instead “at most creates a rebuttable presumption of compliance with FIFRA’s registration process and nothing more.” In addition, with regard to FIFRA’s labeling provisions, the Court found that the Georgia law failure to warn claim is not in addition to or different from FFIRA requirements. Instead, the Court states that the Georgia failure to warn claim “simply enforces the FIFRA cause of action, so it is not expressly preempted.”
The Court also responded to Monsanto’s argument providing several EPA documents indicating that it could not label Roundup as carcinogenic. These included various registration reviews and reregistration eligibility decisions regarding glyphosate products, an EPA paper written about the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel’s independent review of the effects of glyphosate, and “[v]arious papers involving scientific analysis where the EPA concluded that glyphosate did not cause cancer.” Monsanto additionally provided evidence regarding the August 2019 letter from EPA to glyphosate registrants that it would not permit label amendments to include warnings under California’s Proposition 65 that glyphosate is known to the State of California to cause cancer. In that letter, EPA stated that it would consider such language to be “false or misleading,” and thus would not approve of such language on any label and further that registrants were to remove such statements from any approved labels.
The Court found, however, that none of these documents had the “indicia of formality” necessary to meet their standard of review. The Court noted that none of the documents identified were the product of notice and comment rulemaking or formal adjudication, and they did not “‘bespeak the legislative type of activity that would naturally bind’ Monsanto.” The Court thus remanded this case back to the District Court for further proceedings on the failure to warn claim.
This case potentially places glyphosate registrants in the position of defending themselves for not warning about the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate despite past EPA statements that any such warning would be considered a violation of FIFRA. Registrants should pay attention to the potential implications of this case, and others like it, particularly with regard to label claims that EPA has approved. More information on other glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
Regardless of the outcome of this decision, the long and tortured history of the FIFRA preemption issue was expected to, and certainly will, continue. For many years, the debate over the implications of the FIFRA requirement that the EPA label cannot have conflicting (“different from”) language that would be needed, as the argument goes, to comply with state requirements to provide adequately warnings. To a casual observer, the FIFRA label and EPA review should take care of imposing the necessary conditions to avoid harms since it is axiomatic that “the label is the law,” and, if label directions are followed, EPA expects there would be no “unreasonable adverse effects” caused by the pesticide application. But the case law has evolved over the years not only about the confines of FIFRA but also regarding other “failure to warn” cases involving label instructions and warnings approved by other federal agencies (e.g., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The result has been a continued series of cases where the courts, state and federal, have to determine where federal requirements end and freedom for state requirements are allowed.
In this case, the outcome was a disappointment to the registrant community but is unlikely to stop the flow of litigation on both sides of the preemption arguments. And the recent announcement in April 2022 by the Biden Administration EPA to reverse effectively the 2019 letter to California about FIFRA labels and California’s Proposition 65 requirements (Letter from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment on California Proposition 65 |to EPA) might further muddy the water of what a FIFRA label really does imply regarding state warnings, “right-to-know” requirements, and the like.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On April 13, 2022, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) issued a Notice of Modification to Proposed Regulation on Safe Harbor Warnings for Glyphosate and Addition of Documents to Rulemaking File (Notice). OEHHA first proposed this regulation by publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on July 23, 2021. OEHHA provided a 75-day comment period on the original proposal and its Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR), including an extension to file comments until October 7, 2021. It held a public hearing on September 9, 2021.
Following its review of comments, OEHHA has determined modifications of the original regulatory text are needed. In addition, OEHHA stated it is relying upon additional documents in this rulemaking and is adding these documents to the rulemaking file. OEHHA originally opened a 15-day public comment period, running from April 13, 2022, through April 28, 2022, however, at the request of several stakeholders, OEHHA extended the comment period to May 5, 2022. Instructions for filing comments are set forth in the Notice. Consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, OEHHA states it will only address comments received during this comment period that address the modifications to the text of the proposed regulation or documents added to the record. In the Final Statement of Reasons, OEHHA will respond to all comments received during the comment periods on the original July 2021 proposal and on the modified proposal.
OEHHA’s proposal to adopt a new safe harbor warning regulation to address the content of warnings for exposure to glyphosate in consumer products is not without controversy. OEHHA’s initial listing of glyphosate as a substance known to the state to cause cancer was challenged in court. In the 2020 decision for National Association of Wheat Growers et al. v. Becerra et al., the District Court found that the Proposition 65 (Prop 65) safe harbor warning was false and misleading commercial speech under the First Amendment and enjoined enforcement of the warning requirement. More information regarding that decision is discussed in our blog. In addition, in 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a letter stating that it would not approve labeling that includes the Prop 65 warning statement for glyphosate-containing products and that any such warnings would be considered false and misleading and thus misbranding violations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Additional information regarding EPA’s determination is discussed in our blog.
In proposing Prop 65 warning language for glyphosate, OEHHA states in the ISOR (page 12) that the proposal is intended to take into account the ruling and concerns expressed by the District Court:
OEHHA’s safe harbor regulations are nonmandatory guidance. OEHHA does not have enforcement authority under Proposition 65 and thus cannot require warnings to be given for an exposure to any listed chemical, including glyphosate. The injunction in the National Wheat Growers case is still in effect. Therefore, no enforcement actions can be taken against businesses who do not provide warnings for significant exposures to this chemical. OEHHA does not intend to suggest otherwise by proposing this regulatory action.
OEHHA states further (ISOR page 15):
OEHHA has determined that a tailored safe harbor warning for significant glyphosate exposures from consumer products can provide clear and factual and information for the benefit of those who could be exposed. As discussed above, where no consumer product warning is being given under FIFRA for significant exposures to glyphosate, the safe harbor language provides content and methods that businesses can use to provide a warning if they choose to do so. Also, under OEHHA’s implementing regulations, a business that determines it must provide a warning for a worker exposure that is not required under FIFRA may use the proposed consumer product safe harbor content and methods to provide the warning, if appropriate. (Section 25606(a)).
Summary of Proposed Modifications
OEHHA is modifying proposed Section 25607.49, subsection (a)(3) as shown below. Additions and deletions to the proposed text are shown in double-underline (example) and strike-out (
(3) The words, “Using this product can expose you to glyphosate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. US EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans; other authorities have made similar determinations.
Other authorities, including USEPA, have determined that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer, or that the evidence is inconclusive. A wide variety of factors affect your potential personal cancer risk, including the level and duration of exposure to the chemical. For more information, including ways to reduce your exposure, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/glyphosate.”
A copy of the full proposed regulatory text (new sections 25607.48 and 25607.49), reflecting the modification, is available here.
OEHHA states the proposed modifications are intended to address issues raised in the comments to the initial proposal by: (1) separating the description of the conclusion reached by EPA from the description of the conclusions reached by other authorities; (2) more closely aligning the description of the conclusion reached by EPA with the language EPA used in its conclusion; and (3) changing the modifier of the term “risk” in a manner that accounts for the diverging conclusions EPA and other authorities reached.
OEHHA states it also sought input from EPA on whether it could approve the warning language as set forth in this modified proposal, if a pesticide registrant requested approval to include such language on labels of products containing glyphosate sold in California. EPA responded that it could approve the proposed language. Specifically, with regard to its prior 2019 letter and the current warning language, EPA stated:
While EPA’s scientific conclusions regarding the glyphosate cancer classification have not changed since the August 7, 2019, letter to glyphosate registrants, it has determined that the new glyphosate-specific safe harbor language proposed in OEHHA’s recent letter is sufficiently clear regarding EPA’s position and thus would not be considered false and misleading. Therefore, this revised language could be approved by EPA if pesticide registrants requested it for inclusion on glyphosate product labels, and the products would not be considered misbranded.
OEHHA has added the correspondence with EPA referenced above to the rulemaking file as documents relied on for this rulemaking.
Documents Added to the Record
In the interest of completeness and in accordance with Government Code Section 11347.1, subdivision (a), OEHHA also has added to the rulemaking record the following documents to those it relies in this rulemaking:
- U.S. EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, Label Review Manual, Chapter 7 Precautionary Statements (Revised Mar. 2018), Section IV Determining the precautionary labeling, Part A, Signal word, Section 4 Related information on Proposition 65 warnings, page 7-4.
- OEHHA, letter from Lauren Zeise, Director, to Michal Freedhoff, U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (Mar. 21, 2022).
- U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, letter from Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator, to Lauren Zeise, OEHHA Director (Apr. 8, 2022).
- U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, letter from Michael L. Goodis, Director Registration Division, Office of Pesticide Programs, to registrants of products that contain glyphosate (Aug. 7, 2019).
Copies of these materials are available through the links provided above or here on OEHHA’s website.
While the District Court decision enjoins enforcement of any Prop 65 warning requirement for glyphosate, OEHHA stated when it initially proposed the warning language for glyphosate that businesses are not enjoined from providing a warning if they choose to do so. Although OEHHA is proposing slight modifications to the warning language, these modifications do not squarely address the significant concerns raised regarding the initial proposal to the extent that the proposed warning, even as modified, could be considered false and misleading statements under the First Amendment and/or FIFRA. EPA’s April 8, 2022, letter indicates that OEHHA’s modifications to the warning language would be approvable as language that EPA does not consider to be false and misleading should a registrant propose it. If this regulation is approved, it appears that EPA would not reject any label amendments from registrants seeking to add the warning.
By Carla N. Hutton
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have received a draft assessment of glyphosate carried out by four European Union (EU) member states and have begun to consider the findings. According to ECHA’s June 15, 2021, press release, the national authorities of France, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Sweden -- known as the Assessment Group of Glyphosate (AGG) -- examined all the evidence submitted by the companies that are seeking renewed approval to market the glyphosate in the EU. Glyphosate is currently authorized for use in the EU until December 2022.
ECHA and EFSA will organize parallel consultations on the draft report. These will be open to the public and will be held in the first week of September 2021. According to ECHA, the consultations are the first step in the assessments. ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) will review the classification of glyphosate under the Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation. ECHA notes that chemical classification is based solely on the hazardous properties of a substance and does not consider the likelihood of exposure. Exposure is considered as part of the risk assessment process led by EFSA.
Glyphosate currently has a harmonized classification as causing serious eye damage and as toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, prior to and following ECHA’s 2017 assessment. ECHA states that no classification for germ cell mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, or reproductive toxicity was warranted. The AGG proposal does not foresee a change to the existing classification.
Once ECHA adopts its opinion on the classification of glyphosate, EFSA will prepare a final peer review and publish its conclusions, expected in late 2022. Based on this risk assessment, the European Commission (EC) will decide whether to renew glyphosate.
By Lisa R. Burchi and James V. Aidala
On October 6, 2020, the California Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) announced it will be meeting on December 11, 2020, to discuss the possible developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) of 22 chemical substances and chemical groups, including glyphosate and its salts, and three neonicotinoid pesticides (acetamiprid, clothianidin, and imidacloprid). DARTIC is composed of scientists who advise California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) on the prioritization of chemicals for potential Proposition 65 (Prop 65) listing and identification of chemicals that have been shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause reproductive toxicity.
Public comments on the 22 substances will be accepted until November 16, 2020, and OEHHA will forward those comments to DARTIC members prior to its meeting.
The full list of chemicals and chemical groups that DARTIC will discuss are:
- Bisphenol S;
- Domoic acid;
- Glyphosate and its salts;
- Neonicotinoid pesticides;
- Butyl paraben;
- Isobutyl paraben;
- Methyl paraben;
- Propyl paraben;
- Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS);
- Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA);
- Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS);
- Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA);
- Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA);
- Titanium dioxide nanoparticles;
- Vinpocetine; and
OEHHA’s document, Prioritization: Chemicals Identified for Consultation with the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, presents information on these chemicals or chemical groups for DARTIC’s consideration. Specifically, OEHHA states: “For each, an initial, abbreviated appraisal of the scientific information identified through the screening-level literature search and the preliminary toxicological evaluation is presented.” With regard to glyphosate and its salts, OEHHA provides “a brief overview of the relevant studies published within the last five years and those included in the Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate by ATSDR (ATSDR 2020) that were identified during the preliminary toxicological evaluation.”
No listing decisions will be made by DARTIC at the December meeting. If OEHHA moves forward to propose to list any substances, it will separately issue a notice and seek public comments.
The fact that OEHHA is seeking DARTIC’s review of glyphosate is particularly interesting, as glyphosate is already listed under Prop 65 based on a finding that glyphosate is a chemical known to cause cancer. That listing is in jeopardy, however, based on a June 2020 court decision that prohibits OEHHA from requiring Prop 65 warnings because the basis for the listing, a determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the glyphosate is “probably” carcinogenic to humans, is not consistent with the findings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies. Additional information regarding glyphosate’s Prop 65 listing is available here. If OEHHA is not successful in its appeal of the court’s ruling and is successful in listing glyphosate based on its potential to cause developmental and reproductive toxicity effects, the result would be a new basis upon which to impose Prop 65 warning requirements. At the same time, EPA’s registration review of glyphosate encompasses, in EPA’s view, a health risk assessment, which includes a pesticide’s potential risks of developmental and reproductive effects. As a result, it is not clear if EPA’s arguments that its FIFRA labeling authority prohibits Prop 65 warnings also would apply to its registration review of health risks, which includes possible developmental and reproductive effects.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi
On June 22, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment for the Plaintiffs in National Association of Wheat Growers et. al. v. Becerra, and entered a permanent injunction against enforcement of a Proposition 65 (Prop 65) warning label for pesticide products containing glyphosate. The court found that requiring the registrants of glyphosate products to include such a warning could not be justified as a valid restriction on commercial speech and therefore is contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution. The same District Court had previously entered a preliminary injunction against the Prop 65 warning in 2018, and the required warning has consequently never been in effect. (See our February 28, 2018, blog entitled “Eastern District of California Rules on Motion to Enjoin Prop 65 Listing and Warning on Glyphosate Products.”) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has stated that it would not allow a Prop 65 warning to be added to the labeling for any registered glyphosate product because such a warning is misleading and would cause the product to be “misbranded” under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(q)(1)(A). (See our August 15, 2019, blog entitled “EPA Issues Guidance Regarding Prop 65 Labeling Requirements for Glyphosate Products and OEHHA Responds.”)
A Prop 65 warning is required when the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) determines that a product contains a substance that has been classified as a human carcinogen by certain authoritative bodies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Based on an IARC determination that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” in humans, OEHHA listed glyphosate in July 2017 as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, thereby triggering Prop 65 warning requirements. Despite the IARC determination, every other authoritative body that has considered the matter (including EPA, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization) has reached a contrary determination that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic in humans. California’s imposition of a Prop 65 warning for glyphosate was challenged in 2018 by the registrant Bayer and a coalition of farming groups and industry stakeholders, who obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the warning.
Before entering the new permanent injunction, the District Court considered whether California’s regulation of commercial speech should be scrutinized under the lower standard set by the Supreme Court in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel or the intermediate standard set by Central Hudson Gas & Electric v. Public Service Commission. The Zauderer standard only applies to mandatory disclosure of “purely factual and uncontroversial information,” and the Court found that the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate is “misleading” and therefore neither factual nor uncontroversial. Under the Central Hudson level of scrutiny, a governmental agency may only restrict commercial speech when the restriction directly advances an important governmental interest and where the restriction is not more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. The Court found that the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate is misleading, and therefore does not directly advance the interest of the state in informing consumers regarding potential cancer hazards, and that the asserted state interest could be effectively advanced by other measures that do not burden freedom of speech in the same manner.
California argued that no Prop 65 warning would actually be required for glyphosate in practice because OEHHA has set a quantitative “safe harbor” level for glyphosate exposure, but the court found that this would not prevent parties other than California from bringing separate enforcement actions to enforce the listing. Since a Prop 65 warning only needs to be “clear and reasonable,” California also proposed several alternative forms for a warning that would meet state requirements, but the court found these alternate warnings to all be misleading as well. Based on all of these factors, the court decided to enjoin permanently the enforcement of Prop 65 warning requirements for glyphosate as an unconstitutional burden on commercial speech.
Under FIFRA Section 24(b), no state may impose any labeling for a registered pesticide that differs from the labeling approved by EPA. Although EPA has sometimes been willing to accommodate state labeling requirements or preferences within the labeling approved under FIFRA, there are necessary limits to this practice. When label language sought by a state becomes misleading, approving it would also be expressly contrary to FIFRA. How much precedential effect this decision may have with respect to other state requirements for labeling in the future is an issue that registrants should monitor closely.
By Timothy D. Backstrom
On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of an interim registration review decision for glyphosate. EPA previously issued a proposed interim registration review decision (PID) for glyphosate for comment in April 2019. At the time EPA issued the glyphosate PID for comment, EPA also issued a draft human health risk assessment and a preliminary ecological risk assessment for glyphosate. After reviewing the comments received concerning these assessments, EPA has not made any revisions to either assessment. EPA has determined that there are no dietary, residential, bystander, or occupational human health risks of concern associated with glyphosate use. EPA has also determined that there are some potential risks to plants, birds, mammals, and invertebrates from glyphosate use, but that these can be appropriately mitigated by label changes requiring enforceable spray drift management measures and adding a warning concerning the potential hazards to non-target organisms. EPA also has proposed some new measures to manage the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. EPA has generally retained the proposed labeling changes identified in the PID, except for some modest adjustments to the proposed language concerning droplet size restrictions and swath displacement restrictions for aerial applications, and removal of spray drift advisory language for airblast application.
Despite considerable publicity recently concerning purported carcinogenic risks for glyphosate, including allegations that human exposure to glyphosate can be linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be a human carcinogen and has steadfastly adhered to this basic conclusion. EPA made this determination for glyphosate after convening a meeting of the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate in 2016.
The general purposes of the PID process are to allow EPA to move forward with aspects of the registration review process that are essentially complete, and to adopt interim risk mitigation measures, even though some of the actions required prior to a final registration review decision are not yet complete. As in the case of most recent PIDs, EPA states that it has not yet made a complete determination concerning potential effects or any required consultation for glyphosate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), nor has it made a determination for glyphosate under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). In addition, EPA is considering a pending petition to prohibit preharvest use of glyphosate on oats, and to reduce the tolerance for glyphosate in oats, that was filed in 2018 by the Environmental Working Group and others. This petition is predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate. Finally, EPA is still evaluating the question of whether additional data will be needed to evaluate properly the potential effects of glyphosate use on pollinators.
More information on glyphosate and EPA’s interim registration review decision is available here.
EPA's interim registration review decision for glyphosate is predicated on EPA's prior determination that the best available scientific data do not substantiate the claims that glyphosate may be a human carcinogen. As discussed above, the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate was thoroughly evaluated by the FIFRA SAP in 2016. EPA's determination after that review that glyphosate is not a carcinogen has also been supported by other pesticide regulatory authorities. Nonetheless, EPA's view conflicts with a cancer classification decision for glyphosate by the World Health Organization (WHO), and with some recent tort case decisions that were based on the premise that there is a credible linkage between glyphosate exposure and human cancer. EPA recently announced that it would not permit or approve any cancer warning statements for inclusion in glyphosate labeling (including any statements that may be required pursuant to California's Prop 65) because EPA believes that such statements are false or misleading and would therefore cause the pesticides to be "misbranded."
It appears probable there will be continued litigation based on the purported carcinogenicity of glyphosate, along with various proposals to ban or restrict glyphosate use. The pending petition to restrict use of glyphosate on oats that was filed by EWG, et al., is expressly predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate, so it appears probable that this petition will ultimately be denied by EPA. Nonetheless, unless WHO decides to reverse or modify its classification determination, or the courts determine that the recent tort awards for glyphosate users cannot be scientifically substantiated, the battles over the claimed carcinogenicity of glyphosate may persist for years.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under keyword glyphosate.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of, and an opportunity for comment on, a document describing an “interim process” that OPP’s Environmental Fate and Ecological Effects Division is currently using to evaluate potential synergistic effects of mixtures of pesticide active ingredients on non-target organisms. As part of a lawsuit challenging the 2012 decision by EPA to register Enlist Duo Herbicide (a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate), OPP scientists learned that patent applications for some registered pesticide products included claims that particular combinations of active ingredients provide “synergistic” control of target species. Although EPA was not at that time considering potential synergies in assessing the risk for ecological effects on non-target organisms, based on the patent application claims regarding synergy for Enlist Duo, EPA decided to request that the reviewing court vacate its registration decision and remand the application for Enlist Duo for further study of these effects and any measures that might be needed to mitigate the risk to non-target organisms. This decision sparked much controversy, and many in industry were concerned that patent application claims were not being correctly interpreted by EPA for the category of pesticide products at issue.
The new document released by EPA for review and comments is entitled: “Process for Receiving and Evaluating Data Supporting Assertions of Greater Than Additive (GTA) Effects in Mixtures of Pesticide Active Ingredients and Associated Guidance for Registrants.” EPA states that it “has generally been applying this interim process since 2016.” The process described in the document has five steps: (1) registration applicants must search for any granted patents that include synergy (GTA) claims for combinations of pesticides; (2) applicants must review the patent claims and supporting data for relevance to ecological risk assessment; (3) applicants must report to EPA all effects testing data from the relevant patents; (4) applicants must do a statistical analysis (using a method prescribed by EPA) to determine whether any observations of GTA effects are statistically significant; and (5) EPA will review all submitted information to decide whether it should be utilized in ecological risk assessment.
In the Federal Register notice, OPP lists five specific areas pertaining to the interim risk assessment process described in the document on which it is requesting comment:
- Are there technical aspects of the interim process that warrant change? If so, what changes are recommended?
- What aspects of the process could be applied to the evaluation of open literature sources of GTA effects pesticide interactions?
- Should EPA consider standardizing a more detailed search and reporting approach, and how should EPA do that?
- Should EPA continue the evaluation process as described in this document? If so, what performance metrics (e.g., number of evaluations) should EPA consider before deciding the utility of this approach?
- What applicant burden is associated with the activities described in this memorandum, including compiling, analyzing, and submitting the information? Specifically, does an estimate of 80-240 hours of burden per applicant cover the respondent burden associated with the interim process?
When the National Research Council (NRC) evaluated the importance of toxicological interactions between pesticide active ingredients in 2013, the NRC concluded that such interactions are rare, but that EPA should nonetheless consider such interactions when the best available scientific evidence supports such an evaluation. In the current Federal Register notice, EPA makes it clear that it is uncertain concerning the utility for risk assessment of the information used by manufacturers to support synergistic effects claims in pesticide patents. According to EPA, 24 applicants for new registrations have submitted patent data to date, but only three of these submissions contained information that indicated a need for further testing and no submission ultimately led to any adjustment of the ecological risk assessment. At this juncture, EPA will continue collecting patent data that may be pertinent to GTA effects, but when it has sufficient experience upon to base a general policy it may either continue or improve this process or discontinue it after explaining why.
When EPA requested that the reviewing court vacate and remand the registration EPA had granted for Enlist Duo, the parties seeking judicial review located data in the patent applications that EPA had not previously seen or reviewed and that EPA believed could possibly be pertinent to potential adverse effects on non-target plants. EPA concluded that it should revisit the decision based on the additional data. Although EPA decided to request vacatur and remand, the applicant Dow AgroSciences had arguably followed all of the procedures then in place, because FIFRA Section 3(c)(5) allows EPA to waive data requirements pertaining to efficacy, and EPA typically registers pesticide product that are not intended to protect public health without any independent evaluation of efficacy data. Nevertheless, in general EPA may choose to evaluate pesticidal efficacy data; such circumstances in the past often involved cases where EPA was required to consider whether pesticide benefits are sufficient to outweigh identified risks. In the Enlist case, EPA determined that it should do so where potential synergy in pesticidal efficacy is pertinent to evaluating ecological effects on non-target species.
What EPA must decide now is how often efficacy data that has been deemed adequate by the Patent and Trademark Office to support a patent for a new pesticide mixture will have any material significance in the context of ecological risk assessment. Before EPA makes a determination whether or not patent data has sufficient pertinence to continue requiring routine collection and evaluation of such data, EPA has decided it is prudent to afford all stakeholders an opportunity to comment on whether EPA has been asking the right questions.
All comments on the draft document must be submitted no later than October 24, 2019.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On August 7, 2019, EPA took long awaited action concerning the inclusion of Prop 65 warning statements for glyphosate on EPA registered pesticide labels, which will likely impact the broader ongoing debate over EPA approval of Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels. EPA’s August 7, 2019, letter to glyphosate registrants states that EPA “will no longer approve labeling that includes the Proposition 65 warning statement for glyphosate-containing products.” EPA stated further that “[t]he warning statement must also be removed from all product labels where the only basis for the warning is glyphosate and from any materials considered labeling under FIFRA for those products.” Moreover, EPA unequivocally states that “pesticide products bearing the Proposition 65 warning statement due to the presence of glyphosate are misbranded” under FIFRA Section 2(q)(1)(A). Registrants with glyphosate products currently bearing Prop 65 warning language, where the exclusive basis for such warning is based on the presence of glyphosate, must submit draft amended labeling that removes this language by November 5, 2019.
By way of background, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017. OEHHA’s listing of glyphosate as a substance under Prop 65 is based on the International Agency on the Research for Cancer (IARC) classifying it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” EPA scientists subsequently completed an independent review of the available scientific data on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate and do not agree with the IARC classification. Additional information regarding glyphosate is available at B&C’s blog.
Also of note is a February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California, in response to a motion filed by a coalition including Monsanto, CropLife America, and several growers associations alleging that the IARC classification decision for glyphosate is contrary to the international scientific consensus, that the required Prop 65 warning would be misleading to the ordinary consumer, that compelling the manufacturers of glyphosate to provide such a warning would violate the First Amendment because the warning is not factual and uncontroversial, and that the applicable criteria for injunctive relief were met. The February 26, injunction precluded OEHHA from enforcing its Prop 65 warning requirements against glyphosate registrants that otherwise would have taken effect on July 7, 2018. The Court did not rule that glyphosate should be removed from the Prop 65 list as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, but did state that products containing glyphosate would not be required to comply with the warning requirements. In issuing the preliminary injunction, the Court stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.” More information on that case is available at B&C’s blog. That injunction has not been appealed and remains in place.
Although the glyphosate warning that EPA has refused to allow is based on OEHHA’s recent listing under Prop 65, Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels generally have been a significant issue since 2016 when OEHHA issued revised regulations regarding the content and transmission of Prop 65 warnings. As a result of these revisions, many registrants sought to add Prop 65 warning requirements to pesticide labels to meet Prop 65 requirements, but many registrants have not been able to obtain EPA approval for such warnings, resulting in much controversy and discussion. More information regarding the changes to Prop 65 warning requirements also are available at B&C’s blog.
In its press release announcing its guidance to glyphosate registrants, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states: “It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.” EPA states that its “independent evaluation of available scientific data included a more extensive and relevant dataset than IARC considered during its evaluation of glyphosate, from which the agency concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.’” Wheeler is further quoted as stating: “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.”
OEHHA immediately released its own press release on August 13, 2019, in which it “objects to US EPA’s characterization of any warning concerning glyphosate’s carcinogenicity as a false claim.’” After reiterating OEHHA’s listing glyphosate based on the IARC determination, OEHHA states that EPA’s position “conflicts with the determination made by IARC” and that “it is disrespectful of the scientific process for US EPA to categorically dismiss any warnings based on IARC’s determinations as false.”
The Court’s February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction was considered a significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally, especially considering the recent influx to EPA of label amendments seeking EPA approval of revised Prop 65 warning language to address OEHHA’s revised regulatory changes. EPA’s guidance is equally significant, as EPA has now rejected the inclusion of a Prop 65 warning that EPA believes is misleading on a federal pesticide product label.
FIFRA Section 24(b) expressly prohibits any State from requiring any label language for a registered pesticide product beyond the labeling approved by EPA, and EPA has now declined to approve pesticide labeling that includes the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate. In some instances, EPA has been willing as a courtesy to approve labeling changes requested by a State, but the glyphosate determination demonstrates that EPA will not accept any label revisions that conflict materially with its own determinations. Although glyphosate is a fairly complex and controversial case, it will be important for registrants to monitor the evolution of EPA’s standard for when it will or will not approve a Prop 65 warning on a federal label, since this issue has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past several years.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Barbara Christianson
On June 26, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was extending the comment deadline on its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms. 84 Fed. Reg. 30112. EPA states that it is extending the comment deadline “after receiving public comments requesting additional time to review the Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision and supporting materials.”
The deadline to submit comments was extended from July 5, 2019, to September 3, 2019. The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On May 6, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms. 84 Fed. Reg. 19782. In the PID, EPA states that it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure to any use of glyphosate” but did identify “potential risk to mammals and birds” within the application area or areas near the application area and “potential risk to terrestrial and aquatic plants from off-site spray drift, consistent with glyphosate’s use as a herbicide.” Even with these potential risks, the PID states that “EPA concludes that the benefits outweigh the potential ecological risks when glyphosate is used according to label directions” and proposes certain risk mitigation strategies, including:
- “To reduce off-site spray drift to non-target organisms, the EPA is proposing certain spray drift management measures” with specific spray drift mitigation language to be included on all glyphosate product labels for products applied by liquid spray application;
- “To preserve glyphosate as a viable tool for growers and combat weed resistance, the EPA is … proposing that herbicide resistance management language be added to all glyphosate labels” and to require measures “for the pesticide registrants to provide growers and users with detailed information and recommendations to slow the development and spread of herbicide resistant weeds”;
- Inclusion on labels of a non-target organism advisory statement to alert users of potential impact to non-target organisms; and
- “EPA is also proposing certain labeling clean-up/consistency efforts to bring all glyphosate labels up to modern standards.”
EPA states that these measures were discussed with glyphosate registrants, who do not oppose the proposed risk mitigation measures outlined in the PID.
The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361. Public comments are due by July 5, 2019. In addition to the PID, EPA is also posting to the glyphosate docket EPA’s response to comments on glyphosate’s usage and benefits (dated April 18, 2019), EPA’s response to comments on the human health risk assessment (dated April 23, 2018), and EPA’s response to comments on the preliminary ecological risk assessment (dated November 21, 2018).
This PID was issued shortly after the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s announcement on April 8, 2019, of the opening of a docket on the draft toxicological profile for glyphosate. 84 Fed. Reg. 13922. ATSDR seeks comments and additional information or reports on studies about the health effects of glyphosate for review and potential inclusion in the profile. Comments are due by July 8, 2019.
EPA’s PID and related documents, along with ATSDR’s draft profile and the peer review which will follow, can be expected to become part of the larger debate about the potential risks of glyphosate. In 2017, EPA evaluated the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate, and released its draft human health and ecological risk assessments. See our December 19, 2017, blog item "EPA Releases Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate for Public Comment" for more information.
EPA’s PID is interesting not only for the conclusions EPA reached following its review of data submitted by registrants in response to a data call-in (DCI) and following the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel’s (SAP) meeting to consider and review scientific issues related to EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, but for the issues that remain to be addressed. Notably, EPA states that it has not considered the petition filed on September 27, 2018, to reduce glyphosate’s tolerance because the petition was filed after the comment period for the human health and ecological risk assessments closed. Instead, EPA plans to post the petition in the glyphosate docket and address the petition concurrently with the development of the Interim Registration Review Decision.
In addition, EPA has not in the PID or related documents addressed issues regarding its Endangered Species Act (ESA) assessment or its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) activities. EPA states it intends to complete an assessment of risk to ESA-listed species prior to completing its final registration review decision for glyphosate, and that it also will make an EDSP determination under Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) Section 408(p) before completing its registration review. EPA also notes that it continues to evaluate risks to pollinators, and that if it determines “that additional pollinator exposure and effects data are necessary to help make a final registration review decision for glyphosate, then the EPA will issue a DCI to obtain these data.” Although there are significant areas that remain to be resolved, EPA issued the PID “so that it can (1) move forward with aspects of the registration review case that are complete and (2) implement interim risk mitigation.”
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.