While the world’s most prevalent pesticide, with 250 million pounds used every year in the U.S. alone, Roundup could also be considered the most controversial. Over 40 years, Roundup gained its reputation as a more environmentally sustainable weed-killer and cultivator among harsher alternatives. Unfortunately, the truth is quite different – at least for humans.
In a 2015 report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized glyphosate (the active chemical compound in Roundup®) as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This link between glyphosate and cancer reinforced studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) way back in 1985.
Since IARC’s revelations, litigation and research against the weed-killer’s manufacturers, who knowingly exposed agricultural workers to its dangers, has exploded. Here’s a recap of the latest news.
Roundup Lawsuits on the Rise
According to defective product lawsuits, workers were misinformed about or completely hidden from the risks associated with Roundup use. Litigation began shortly after IARC’s report, which was used as evidence in a failure-to-warn case filed by 184 California plaintiffs. One risk, cases uncovered, is of developing deadly cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).
Among the latest of more than 1,100 Monsanto lawsuits across state and federal courts, brought this month, is a cancer case in Florida. The victim was diagnosed with NHL 10 years ago, unaware of its cause. The source was later revealed to be his 30 years of on-the-job exposure to Roundup.
Another complaint was filed in Wisconsin Tuesday, alleging that consumers are being misled by inaccurate marketing. Promoted as a chemical that targets plant enzymes not found in people or animals, glyphosate can in fact target gut bacteria in both, upsetting digestion, the immune system, and “even brain function.” Though not a cancer claim, this shows that Roundup may have even more potential to injure than once thought.
Monsanto: Ignorance Is Bliss
As expected, Monsanto’s response was defiant. “These lawsuits have no merit,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s Vice President for Global Strategy. “IARC’s classification is inconsistent with the overwhelming consensus of regulatory authorities and other reports around the world.”
It’s true that reports conflict, but doctors have weighed in with their own unbiased, scientific observations.
“We know that numerous chemicals, both naturally occurring and synthetic, can cause cancer through a complex process called carcinogenesis,” said Raymond Esper M.D., Ph.D., with the Florida Cancer Specialists.
Dr. Carol Roberts, M.D., at Hughes Center in Florida, believes that glyphosate is plainly dangerous. “Anything that is anti-life is going to have bad effects on our bodies,” she said. “When you see people who have been exposed to one particular toxicant, and they're all developing the same type of cancer, I would say that's pretty good evidence.”
Who Is Holding Monsanto Accountable?
Despite years of evidence detailing the gruesome effects of glyphosate exposure, Monsanto stubbornly maintains that Roundup is safe. In the 1980s, when the EPA initially believed otherwise, Monsanto tried to refute these findings through privately-conducted studies. The company is now attempting the same following IARC’s rating.
Yet the truth seems to be that, having built the world’s largest GMO seed and pesticide monopoly, Monsanto will say anything to protect their reputation over people unknowingly exposed to Roundup’s threats. Until the company is willing to come clean, workers are advised to be cautious in following the pesticide’s Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which provides guidance on handling hazardous chemicals.
“[Epidemiologic studies] are being conducted at various universities to look for different chemicals in our environment that are associated with cancer and looking at ways to reduce the risk of cancer development,” said Dr. Esper.
As of today, however, there is 1 clear trend across hundreds of Monsanto lawsuits. Agricultural workers who have been exposed to the chemicals in Roundup – including those who work on farms, in garden centers and nurseries, and in careers such as grounds-keeping and landscaping – are at risk of developing cancer. If so, they have the opportunity for justice, and would be right to take it.