William Shubb, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, has put a halt to the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of California trial lawyers, a U.N. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group participant, and organic industry front groups hoping to profit from a bizarre determination on glyphosate by IARC that weirdly bucked the science consensus. He has ruled that companies can't be forced to lie and put warning labels on glyphosate, an active ingredient in products like the mild weedkiller Roundup.
California was the perfect place to file the lawsuit because it is the only state that has abdicated its science and health to a foreign body. Being placed on an IARC list is one of the four default ways to automatically be included on California's Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65) list. That referendum, passed without the legislature by voters in 1986, sounded innocuous enough. And it was because back then IARC, whose first managing director was a Trustee of the American Council on Science and Health, was a legitimate body. They were in the business of finding what hazards lead to cancer. When they found one, more studies would be done to determine risk.
However, critics even then worried this would be abused. And it has been. IARC, which still does not calculate risk, nonetheless shamelessly promotes itself by talking about risk in its media releases about its findings. And once they ran out of hazards to study, they started to invent them. Now their list compounds number nearly 1,000 and so it is impossible to go anywhere in California without being warned it will give you cancer. Want to win a bet with your brother-in-law that bacon is as bad for you as eating plutonium or inhaling mustard gas? IARC can do that.
Now the state is so ridiculous that even people with cancer in hospital cancer wards are shown signs telling them that plastic in the cancer ward could give them cancer.
A real sign sent by a real oncologist from a real California cancer ward. For obvious reasons, they wish to remain anonymous.
So why did a judge block the efforts to force warning labels on products? Because there is no scientific evidence the compound is harmful. It is a violation of the Constitution to compel businesses to post "false, misleading and highly controversial statements" on their products. They can't lie and engage in false advertising to gain market share and they can't be forced to lie by engaging in false negative advertising either.
There are always winner and losers in these fights so here is a scoresheet.
The Big Losers:
Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman PC in Los Angeles and Weitz & Luxenberg PC in New York. Sorry folks, you will need to buy your next yacht shaking someone down besides California farmers. Maybe try Johnson & Johnson over baby powder. There is no more science in those claims but they seem willing to settle pretty easily.
Dr. Chris Portier - IARC, at the request of Portier, changed its Working Group rules so that any expert who had accepted consulting fees could not participate in the Working Group. Yet Portier's sizable paychecks from Environmental Defense Fund were exempt because EDF is an anti-science activism NGO, not a for-profit corporation. Portier also signed a lucrative contract ($160,000 as of June 2017) to support lawyers hoping to sue Monsanto over glyphosate before the IARC monograph was even released, as David Zaruk showed from Portier's deposition at the offices of the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg on September 5th 2017.
Organic Consumers Association - the junkyard dog trade group of the organic industry. They hope to accomplish using the legislature and the courts and harassment of scientists what their clients cannot do in the free market - increase revenue. This is a big slap in the face for them. Russian propaganda sites like Russia Today dutifully wrote articles undermining American agricultural science in preparation for the California lawsuits and all signs point to OCA or one of its subsidiary attack dogs as the culprits. This is going to be bad for their corporate begging in 2018.
The Big Winners:
The American public. While lawyers always make it sound like they are doing this stuff to protect the little guy, it is invariably the little guy who has to pay higher costs when litigation groups squeeze a settlement out of a company. In 2018, corporate culture is so driven by fear that they not only apologize for being in business, they cut checks to lawyers, be they from Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), or Center for Food Safety, or a private firm, "at the drop of a rat." Finally, someone stood up to this kind of extortion. And it worked.
The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, part of Cal-EPA, could only offer a meek, "We are pleased that the listing of glyphosate remains in effect, and we believe our actions were lawful." They then scrambled to say they were creating their own "no significant risk level" determination - despite the fact that EPA and a dozen other world bodies have already done that - later this year.