Business has been tough for Monsanto in the past year: first, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the herbicide glyphosate (sold under the brand name “Roundup”) a probable human carcinogen. The company has been dogged by lawsuits by people alleging that its products caused their cancer. And the government of France even went so far as to completely ban sales of Roundup. Now, the state of California is trying to force the company to warn consumers of the potential health risks of using Roundup before they buy.
Needless to say, Monsanto isn’t taking the news well. California’s Proposition 65 requires the state to keep a list of all potential cancer-causing chemicals so that residents can be informed about the products they’re using. If glyphosate makes it onto the list, Monsanto could be required to alter their warning labels to acknowledge the IARC findings.
The company is arguing that by requiring disclosure on the labeling, California would be violating the company’s first amendment rights, as well as alleging that adding their herbicide to the list of probable carcinogens violates its right to due process. These are incredibly troubling arguments, especially in the context of public safety. If a court rules that companies have the free speech “right” not to inform customers of potential health threats, it might no longer be possible for consumers to protect themselves when using dangerous products.