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Shelves with a variety of Pesticides in a Carrefour Supermarket. Roundup is a brand-name of an herbicide containing glyphosate, made by Monsanto. Photo: Shutterstock

Roundup is likely to be labeled as a known carcinogen in California, following a much-anticipated court decision last week.

Even as the legal fallout continues, the company that makes the glyphosate-based weedkiller, Monsanto, pushed back against allegations in court documents they were behind the scenes of some of the science that has recently established their product as safe.

Roundup is subject to the stringent Proposition 65 guidelines in California, which allow listing of chemicals that can cause cancer, according to the final decision by Judge Kristi Kapetan of the state’s Superior Court in Fresno County.

Monsanto had filed the lawsuit in January 2016 against the state EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which had filed a notice of intent to list the glyphosate active in Roundup as a carcinogen.

The notice was based on 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which found that glyphosate was a “probable carcinogen.”

Monsanto alleged in its lawsuit that the agency was essentially taking away the say of voters by deferring to the IARC’s findings, and that the company was deprived of its First Amendment rights by the potential addition of the warning label, among other arguments.

However, the judge disagreed – and seemed to dismiss future variations on those arguments.

“The court also intends to deny leave to amend the pleadings, as there does not appear to be any chance that Monsanto or California Citrus can amend their complaints to state valid claims under any of the theories they rely upon,” the judge concludes.

The ruling would seemingly bolster personal-injury lawsuits based on the link between Roundup and some cancers, like the lawsuit filed by Teri McCall last year. McCall’s husband Jack sprayed Roundup on his family farm in Cambia, California for decades – and he developed a rare and aggressive version of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and died at the end of 2015. The McCalls are represented by the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, and Goldman, and also by the environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

That personal-injury lawsuit has in turn touched off a release of internal Monsanto documents. The New York Times reports that the documents indicate the company was “ghostwriting” research by outside laboratories, and also orchestrating a public-relations campaign to ensure the Roundup product was considered safe. In fact, the company’s scientist later referred to his contribution to the paper as “ghostwriting,” as Monsanto admits.

The paper in question is a 2000 study on glyphosate safety published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology by Gary M. Williams, Robert Kroes, and Ian C. Munro.

Monsanto defended itself against the allegations, contending that a single email among millions of pages had been singled out for scrutiny, and without appropriate context.

“These allegations are false,” the company said in a statement. “Monsanto scientists did not ghostwrite the paper. The paper and its conclusions are the work of Dr. Williams, Dr. Kroes and Dr. Munro. The paper also underwent the journal’s rigorous peer review process before it was published.”

“To be clear: no regulatory body in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen,” the company states in its statement, days after the California decision.

But some studies have contended that the herbicide is a health danger. A study published last month showed that even low doses of the chemical cause serious liver problems in rats.

The two-year rodent experiments showed they developed non-fatty liver disease, according to the study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

“The results of the study presented here imply that chronic consumption of extremely low levels of (Roundup), at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations, are associated with marked alterations of the liver proteome and metabolome,” conclude the authors, from King’s College London.

“These alterations correlate with the observed signs of hepatic anatomorphological and biochemical pathological changes in this organ, and as suggested by transcriptome profiling,” they add.

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