The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was ordered by a federal appeals court to reexamine its 2020 findings that glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller products and the most widely used herbicide in the world, is “not likely” to cause cancer, particularly Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL), in humans and does not pose a serious health risk, the Associated Press reported. 

The 54-page order by the California-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 17 rejects the findings by the agency under the Trump administration that glyphosate is safe regardless of its applications, including on residential gardens and landscaping, on farms, on roadsides as part of weed-abatement programs, on grasses in city parks, as well as the residue it leaves behind on certain food crops. 

The court found that "most studies EPA examined indicated that human exposure to glyphosate is associated with an at least somewhat increased risk of developing NHL." 

The unanimous three-judge panel ruling said EPA’s finding of no risk to human health “was not supported by substantial evidence,″ Judge Michelle Friedland wrote, adding that the agency fell short of its obligations under the Endangered Species Act by inadequately examining glyphosate’s impact on animal species and vegetation.

EPA “shirked its duties under the Endangered Species Act. We agree and remand to the agency for further consideration,″ wrote Friedland, who was nominated to the court by former President Barack Obama. 

Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, had at one time faced over 125,000 lawsuits in which plaintiffs alleged that they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to long-term exposure to Roundup’s ingredients. 

Bayer settled approximately 100,000 of those lawsuits for approximately $11 billion in 2020. The company still faces about 30,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs who refused to join the class settlement. Bayer’s primary defense for the seven cases that have gone to trial has been that the company was not obligated to warn consumers since the EPA had declared glyphosate unlikely to cause cancer. 

The Ninth Circuit Court’s order that EPA reexamines its findings on glyphosate stymies Bayer’s recent successes in court. After losing the first three Roundup trials, which were held in 2018-2019, the company has been cleared of liability in the last four trials, including a jury’s finding on June 18 that an Oregon man’s cancer was not caused by Roundup.