In early August, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidance for the labeling of products that contain glyphosate, a popular herbicide that has been a subject of controversy over the past few years. The EPA’s formal letter, sent to all glyphosate registrants, makes it clear that the agency will no longer approve any product labels that claim the compound is known to cause cancer. This decision is a direct response to California’s Proposition 65, which compelled companies to include the health warning on all glyphosate products sold within the state.
According to a 2017 research report released by the EPA, the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate has been thoroughly investigated by both domestic and international agencies, including the World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Authority and the Cancer Assessment Review Committee. All studies found that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a direct risk to humans who are exposed to the compound through their diets. Despite these findings, many advocacy groups continue to campaign for health warnings that the EPA considers to be “false claim[s] that do not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act.”
A Closer Look at Pesticide Labeling
As pointed out in the EPA’s 2017 report, pesticide products (like those that include glyphosate) are required by law to provide critical safety and legal information on their labels and packaging. For example, all pesticides must include a statement that “it is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling” to earn the agency’s approval. These types of disclaimers are not just about informing potential customers about the health and safety risks, as they are also essential for managing liability. But forcing companies to include claims that are not backed by medical research is a dangerous precedent to set.
“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk,” said Andrew Wheeler, an EPA administrator, in a press release on the agency’s website. “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them.”
One of the difficulties of staying compliant with labeling regulations is that federal agencies, state governments and local municipalities often have different guidelines. This has forced companies in the food and beverage, cosmetics and pesticide industries to be prepared for rapid changes in their production cycles. Make sure you’re keeping pace with shifting regulations by viewing our selection of label printers at Optimedia Labs’ U.S. page or visit our Canadian site.
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