Nonprofit Groups Sue Monsanto over Roundup, Allege Mislabeling

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Roundup Lawsuit Alleges Monsanto Labeling is Misleading, Obscures Glyphosate Risks

Monsanto has faced growing litigation alleging that its widely-used Roundup herbicide causes cancer. The product has been under intense public scrutiny, particularly after a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared its active ingredient glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Now, the company faces a new Roundup lawsuit filed on behalf of two nonprofit companies who allege the weedkiller is mislabeled.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are closely monitoring events in the Monsanto Roundup herbicide litigation. The firm, which has decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over environmental health risks, continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a Roundup lawsuit.

Court records show that Monsanto is facing a new Roundup lawsuit filed by two nonprofit groups, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association. The suit alleges that the Roundup label is misleading because it states that glyphosate targets an enzyme only found in plants. Therefore, the label claims, the product is safe to use for humans and animals. The lawsuit, however, contends that the enzyme referred to on the label is found in humans and animals. The Roundup herbicide subsequently presents a health risk, the suit alleges.

The groups allege that Monsanto purposely mislabels Roundup to downplay its risks. The complaint states that “Reasonable consumers must and do rely on Monsanto to report honestly Roundup’s effects on humans and animals and whether the enzyme it targets is found in people and pets,”
“no reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects their immune health.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Civil Division.

Roundup Lawsuits Allege Glyphosate caused Cancer

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, declared that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”. The announcement sparked safety concerns, as well as mounting litigation.

IARC said in its report that there was “strong” evidence of glyphosate’s genotoxicity. This means it can damage the genetic material of cells, increasing the risk of cancerous growth. The statement was based on findings from 1,000 studies.

Monsanto is facing Roundup lawsuits alleging the herbicide caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Plaintiffs allege that the company has been aware of the risks but failed to warn consumers.
Monsanto has fought hard against the report, and maintains that Roundup does not cause cancer.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has created a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for Roundup cancer lawsuits in the Northern District of California before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. The JPML creates MDLs when there are a growing number of lawsuits with common factual allegations. MDLs make complex litigation more efficient because they streamline the legal process and eliminate the need for duplicate discovery.

After the IARC declaration, the state of California sought to label glyphosate as a carcinogen under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65 (Prop 65).

In response, Monsanto sued the State of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The company alleged that the Prop 65 listing invoked several constitutional violations.

However, the California Superior Court disagreed and found that Monsanto insufficiently alleged each of its claims, among other things. “there is no support for Monsanto’s conclusion that the OEHHA has unconstitutionally delegated its rulemaking authority to the IARC,” the court ruled.

“the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.”

The journal Scientific Reports published a recent report establishing a causative link between Roundup and a liver disease known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats.

Researchers gave the animals a very low dose of glyphosate over the course of two years.

“The findings of our study are very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Antoniou on Kings College in London, according to Daily Mail UK. “Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Unsealed Court Documents Raise Questions of Corruption

The Monsanto Roundup litigation recently took a dramatic turn, as unsealed court documents suggest that a high-ranking official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tipped off Monsanto about the IARC reports months ahead of time, giving the company plenty of time to prepare a public relations strategy.

Questions of corruption center on retired EPA official Jess Rowland. Plaintiffs allege that the official played a “highly suspicious” role, and helped stop a government review of glyphosate. According to Monsanto emails, Rowland reportedly said of the glyphosate investigation “If I can kill this I should get a medal,”

Additionally, internal company emails show that Monsanto suggested its own employees “ghostwrite” research studies showing that glyphosate is safe, with scientists listed as the official authors. In proposing this, a Monsanto executive cited one instance where the company has used this approach in the past.

In an email dated Feb. 19, 2015, Monsanto executive William “Bill” Heydens suggested that company employees ghostwrite the studies to save on cost. “…we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” he wrote.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a consumer advocacy group, commented on these documents in a Mar. 15, 2017 press release. “Monsanto tells us that Roundup is safe because scientists say it is safe. But apparently scientists sign their names, while Monsanto signs the checks,” said U.S. PIRG Toxics Director Kara Cook-Schultz. “This calls into question multiple studies written, or possibly ghostwritten, by agricultural scientists.”

Filing a Monsanto Roundup Herbicide Lawsuit

Parker Waichman has spent years representing clients in lawsuits over alleged environmental health risks. If you or someone you know is interested in filing a Monsanto Roundup Herbicide lawsuit, speak with one of our environmental attorneys today. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).