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Glyphosates Part II: Consumers, Confused AND Concerned

Glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, has dominated headlines over the last year due to the thousands of lawsuits brought by consumers who claim that the chemical causes cancer. As glyphosate is used in almost all of the sugar beets grown in the US, the concern over the presence of glyphosate in the US sugar supply is taking center stage. Sugaright wants to help our customers manage this risk by increased understanding of a dynamic and complex topic AND by offering a glyphosate-free option for their liquid sugar purchases.

How Much is Too Much?

While retail companies may believe that they have science on their side, recent court make clear that that argument may not be enough to win in court. Companies will be forced to defend against the narrative crafted by plaintiffs' lawyers and consumer advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), who have worked to keep glyphosate in the public eye by criticizing prominent companies for alleged glyphosate residue in their products and calling for tougher regulations.

EWG has emerged as an early leader in glyphosate consumer advocacy, publishing a self-commissioned "study" five days after the verdict that reportedly found that the majority of the food samples tested by EWG contained glyphosate levels higher than what EWG considers to be safe—although none of the products exceeded current legal limits.

EWG has also teamed up with eight major food companies to petition EPA to reduce the current glyphosate tolerance level in oat-based products from 30 ppm to 0.1 ppm, the original level set by EPA in 1993. Most recently, EWG attacked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the agency released a report in October 2018 concluding that over 99 percent of United States-sourced foods it tested in 2016 complied with federal glyphosate tolerance levels.

EWG criticized the FDA for not being diligent in testing the US food supply. They also challenged the tolerance levels claiming they are much higher than what the EU deems to be safe for human consumption.

Lawyers See Opportunity

Spurred by their early success against Monsanto and armed with the support of consumer groups like EWG, plaintiffs' lawyers are now looking to target a wider range of defendants, especially those whose products may contain ingredients treated with glyphosate.

We expect plaintiffs' lawyers to continue to bring glyphosate-related claims against an increasing range of defendants in the retail industry in 2019. The first bellwether trials of the Roundup federal multidistrict litigation are scheduled to begin in 2019, and Monsanto's appeal of the Johnson verdict will work its way through the courts.

Because glyphosate is so widely used in agriculture, it is likely that plaintiffs' lawyers have only scratched the surface of the potential pool of glyphosate defendants, which could include any company in the retail chain associated with a product with components that may have been treated with glyphosate at some point in the manufacturing process. Companies that advertise their products as "natural" or "organic" should be especially aware of the threat of glyphosate litigation.

Is it time for your company to change your sugar supply to minimize your risk of glyphosate litigation?

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