California regulators are taking a pivotal step toward requiring the popular weed killer Roundup to come with a warning label. The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced Monday, June 26, 2017, that the weed killer’s main ingredient, glyphosate, will be listed in July as a chemical known to cause cancer. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Ingredient in popular weed killer could be cancerous

Roundup could soon come with warning label that it’s known to cause cancer

Regulators in California took a pivotal step on Monday toward becoming the first state to require the popular weed killer Roundup to come with a label warning that it’s known to cause cancer.

Officials announced that starting July 7 the weed killer’s main ingredient, glyphosate, will appear on a list California keeps of potentially cancerous chemicals. A year later, the listing could come with warning labels on the product, officials said.

However, it’s not certain whether Roundup will ultimately get a warning label.

Monsanto, the chemical’s maker, has filed an appeal after losing in court to block the labeling, arguing that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer and that the labels will harm the company’s business.

Health Canada has already said the potential risks to human health are acceptable, providing the product is used as directed. However by April 2019, manufacturers will be required to update commercial labels for products containing glyphosate and include statements like:

  • Re-entry into the sprayed areas should be restricted to 12 hours after its application in agricultural areas.
  • The product is to be applied only when the potential to spread to areas of human activity, such as houses, cottages, schools and recreational areas, is minimal.
  • Instructions for buffer zones to protect areas beyond those targeted as well as aquatic habitats.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it has detected trace amounts of herbicide in nearly 30 per cent of the food products it tested.

State health regulators in California have already received more than 1,300 public comments.

“We can’t say for sure,” said Sam Delson, a spokesman for California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. “We’re reviewing those comments.”

Glyphosate has no colour or smell. Monsanto introduced it in 1974 as an effective way of killing weeds while leaving crops and plants intact.

It’s sold in more than 160 countries — including Canada — and farmers use it on 250 types of crops in California, the nation’s leading farming state.

Attorney Michael Baum, who represents more than 300 people who claim a loved one became sick or died from exposure to Roundup, says the fight to protect Californians is not over.

He said that the state’s failure to set the proper risk level would undermine protections California put in place by listing harmful chemicals.

Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice-president of global strategy, said in a statement that glyphosate does not cause cancer and there’s no need to list it as harmful in California.

“This is not the final step in the process,” Partridge said. “We will continue to aggressively challenge this improper decision.”