May 23, 2022
In a letter to President Joe Biden, 54 agricultural groups expressed grave concern with a recent amicus brief submitted by the U.S. Solicitor General to the Supreme Court advising the court against taking up a case regarding pesticide labels. They warned the new policy would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the science-based regulatory process.
Biden administration Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar stated in a recent court brief that the nation’s pesticide law does not preempt state-law claims such as those that have resulted in multimillion-dollar judgments against Monsanto for Roundup exposure, in a brief urging the Supreme Court not to grant the company's request to reconsider a lower court ruling. In the May 10 brief, she advised the court against taking up a case concerning whether state pesticide labels can conflict with federal labels.
In a letter from the groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council, and American Sugarbeet Growers Association, they called on the president to swiftly withdraw the brief. The groups are worried this new policy, along with having environmental impacts, could ultimately hinder the ability of U.S. farmers to help meet growing global food needs intensified by the invasion of Ukraine.
Brad Doyle, soy farmer from Arkansas and president of the American Soybean Association, states, “Federal law is clear that pesticide labels cannot be false or misleading. Allowing states to require health warnings contrary to decades of sound science is beyond disturbing and obviously not in line with federal law. I and other farmers are concerned this new policy will open the floodgate to a patchwork of state labels that will undermine grower access to safe, effective pesticides needed to farm productively and sustainably.”
At question is whether the state of California can require a cancer warning label for the popular herbicide glyphosate when thousands of studies, decades of robust scientific consensus, and numerous global regulatory bodies—including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—agree the herbicide is not a carcinogen.
The ag groups explain the new position expressed by the Solicitor General is a “stunning reversal from previous, bipartisan administrative policy.” The brief asserts federal law and regulations do not prevent states from imposing their own labeling requirements, even if those labels run counter to federal findings.
"Supplying wheat to the world is more important than ever given the unprecedented times with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Together, Russia and Ukraine make up one-third of the world’s wheat exports, and the disruptions we are seeing will certainly impact food supply,” says National Association of Wheat Growers President Nicole Berg, a Washington wheat farmer. “Aside from the war, U.S. wheat growers are experiencing extreme weather conditions threatening the quality of their crops this year. Seventy-five percent of the winter wheat production in the U.S. is in a severe drought. NAWG is concerned this new policy would undermine access to safe and effective crop protection tools that play a critical role in helping feed the world."
AFBF President Zippy Duvall adds, “Farmers utilize science-backed crop protection tools on their farms to produce safe, nutritious food. Allowing labels that conflict with existing conclusions and EPA studies will add to a greater misunderstanding of the crucial role pesticides play in enabling farmers to grow healthy, affordable food for America’s families."
Nate Hultgren, sugarbeet farmer from Minnesota and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association says, “Farmers can’t meet consumers' food security needs and help address climate change if the safe crop protection products we use and desperately need are undermined by the states. Allowing states to supersede federal pesticide labeling requirements will create massive uncertainty, confusion and add to significant supply chain disruptions.”
“In the coming months, farmers will have to work even harder to address worldwide food shortages, and a patchwork of state regulations will jeopardize access to the critical farm supplies they need,” says National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington. “We hope the Biden administration will reverse its position on this issue.”
The groups call on Biden to withdraw the brief. They also encourage the president to consult with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better understand the implications of this decision for science-based regulation, as well as food security and environmental sustainability.
Bayer files its own justification
Bayer, the parent company of Roundup, also filed its final brief regarding the petition for a writ of certiorari in the Hardeman case where Edwin Hardeman claimed his exposure to Roundup caused him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and that Monsanto had failed to adequately provide warning of Roundup’s health risks.
“The company continues to believe there are strong legal arguments to support Supreme Court review and reversal in Hardeman, as its petition and the many amicus briefs filed in support of the petition underscore. The company has filed a final brief regarding its Petition for a Writ of Certiorari and looks forward to a decision from the Supreme Court,” Bayer says in a statement.
“The U.S. EPA has consistently found that glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and are not carcinogenic, in line with leading regulators worldwide. If the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Hardeman is left standing, it would undermine the ability of companies to rely on official actions taken by expert regulatory agencies and to meet today’s pressing food security and environmental challenges.”
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