The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revoked its own interim decision on the herbicide glyphosate.
The move means the EPA will focus instead on a final review scheduled for 2026. It comes about three months after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of the agency’s decision and set an Oct. 1 deadline for the agency to conduct a new environmental review.
The EPA has previously told the court it could not meet the Oct. 1 deadline.
The cancelled decision also allows the original review allowing glyphosate use to stand. Growers can continue to use glyphosate for crop management until the final review in 2026.
All registered pesticides must be reviewed by the EPA every 15 years, according to federal law. The agency can review them sooner than 15 years if new data is discovered, but numerous portions of the pesticide must be weighed in any regulatory decision.
While the interim decision, issued in February 2020 addressed some of the required evaluations, it did not make findings in other areas as required by law, EPA officials wrote in their announcement nixing the decision.
The decision “did not make findings under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act or under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program,” the agency wrote.
The decision also did not address a petition submitted by the agency’s Environmental Working Group to “reduce the tolerance level for glyphosate residues on oats and require certain label changes based on concerns regarding dietary exposure and carcinogenicity,” agency officials wrote.
The withdrawal also does not impact the agency’s prior finding that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” which can be used as part of future regulations.
Glyphosate has been at the center of numerous federal lawsuits alleging the chemical causes cancer.
The EPA — and numerous other agencies — have determined that the chemical is safe, though at least some of those agencies based their decision on the EPA’s ruling.
At least one other agency — the International Agency for Research on Cancer — has determined glyphosate to be a “likely human carcinogen,” but called for more research on the subject.
Glyphosate, which is widely used with crops bred to tolerate it, like soybeans, has also showed up in urine, been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, and has been linked to potentially prolonged seizures in nematodes.
Academic research has weighed in on both sides of the debate, with some studies showing a link causing cancer and others showing no link.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer, has said it intends to phase out the use of glyphosate for non-commercial uses as part of a plan to address legacy claims surrounding the chemical.
The company has also won multiple jury decisions in its favor in cases alleging the chemical causes cancer, and the issue has been rejected for a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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