Monsanto Faces Health and Environmental Concerns over Roundup

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Chemical giant Monsanto faces legal and regulatory battles in light of research linking the weed killer Roundup to cancer and to environmental issues.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), following a finding by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that Roundup (glyphosate) is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” added glyphosate to the state of California’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer.

In March 2016, IARC announced a “positive association has been observed for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The OEHHA decision is good news for plaintiffs in 37 lawsuits consolidated last November in Northern California. One of those Monsanto cancer lawsuits is a wrongful death lawsuit filed last March.

Roundup and Health Concerns

The husband of the woman who filed the lawsuit died on December 25, 2015 of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The couple operated a farm in Cambria, California for more than 40 years. The husband said he only used Roundup because he believed Monsanto’s claim that it was safe. Three years before the man died, the family’s dog developed lymphoma and died at age six. The dog had played in the fields the farmer sprayed with Roundup.

Parker Waichman notes that Roundup exposure has been associated with health problems, including leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, respiratory distress, pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and renal failure, hand tremors, blurred vision, and loss of coordination.

In addition to health-related lawsuits, Monsanto faces false advertising lawsuits. Plaintiffs allege that Roundup advertising claims, “Roundup can be used where kids and pets will play and breaks down into natural material.” Monsanto even claimed Roundup is “safe as table salt.” But lawsuits argue that Monsanto knew for decades that glyphosate is a carcinogen. Monsanto allegedly knew before the EPA first approved glyphosate that the chemical includes a cancer risk.

Other countries responded quickly to the IARC report. France, The Netherlands, Sweden and Italy have all raised concerns about Roundup and are debating whether to relicense the herbicide. Based on the IARC findings, the French Minister of Ecology has called for a ban on glyphosate herbicides across the EU, according to The Guardian. Colombia halted the use of glyphosate in their coca eradication program and Bermuda, Sri Lanka banned import of glyphosate products, the Huffington Post reports.

Roundup Cancer Connection

In March 2015 a summary of a study involving five agricultural chemicals in a class known as organophosphates was published in The Lancet Oncology. The study rated glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and labeled it category 2A.

“The risk of cancer may be present for individuals ranging from those who simply use the product in the yards or gardens to individuals who work in landscaping or on farms,” according to Alan Christopher of Consumer Safety Watch, a consumer advocate organization.

Glyphosate remains one of the world’s largest herbicides by sales volume. In 2000, Roundup accounted for almost $2.8 billion in sales in 2000, and outsold other herbicides by a margin of five to one. Roundup is still responsible for a major portion of Monsanto’s revenues.

When genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops were first being introduced in the early 1990s, biotech companies claimed numerous benefits: GMO crops could produce more nutritious food, resist climate stress, and reduce pesticide use, among other benefits. But, in fact, the characteristic most widely engineered was the ability to withstand Roundup. This put Monsanto in a strong position—they could sell not only the engineered seeds but also the weed killer the seeds were designed to withstand. This combination greatly simplified weed control: the farmer could spray a field without concern for damaging the crop. Today, 90 percent or more of the corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are varieties that have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate, the Huffington Post reports. Roundup is also widely used by home gardeners, and in public gardens, parks, roadsides and forests.

Food safety testing done by the organization Food Democracy Now found high levels of the glyphosate residue in some of America’s most popular food products, including Cheerios, Oreos, Doritos, and Ritz Crackers. Probable harm to human health could begin at glyphosate levels as low 0.1 parts per billions (ppb), according to Food Democracy Now. Glyphosate residue cannot be removed by washing, is not broken down by cooking or baking, and can remain stable in food for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen or processed.

Legal Help for Those Harmed by Roundup

If you or someone you know has developed cancer or a health problem linked to Roundup exposure, consider seeking legal help. The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are available to provide a free, no obligation case evaluation. Contact the firm by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).