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OEHHA Announces Modification to Proposed Regulation on Safe Harbor Warnings for Glyphosate and Addition of Documents to Rulemaking File
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
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.
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 (
(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.
A copy of the full proposed regulatory text (new sections 25607.48 and 25607.49), reflecting the modification, is available here.
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:
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.