Roundup is the world’s most popular herbicide. An herbicide is a type of weed killer and pesticide that has been sold since the 1970s.
Research has found that Roundup is tied to some life-threatening health risks. Environmental and plant scientists and consumer groups are concerned that glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed killer, Roundup, may cause serious health issues, such as cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Roundup herbicide is made by the Monsanto Company and is used on crops, such as corn and soybeans. These crops are often modified to survive Roundup’s deadly effects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States farmers used about 185 million pounds of glyphosate in 2007, double the amount used six years prior.
Roundup herbicide exposure may happen to crop workers, applicators who spray Roundup, workers exposed to benches and other woods at large home improvement stores, people who work in smaller nurseries, and people who work at farm stands.
If you or someone you know has been exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup and developed leukemia, lymphoma, or Parkinson’s disease, the attorneys at Parker Waichman would like to hear from you.
Monsanto’s FIFRA Stance Can’t Nix Roundup Cancer Suit
In a lawsuit brought against Monsanto—Hardeman v. Monsanto Company et al., case number 3:16-cv-00525, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—a California federal judge refused to throw out a lawsuit against the weed killer manufacturer on April 8, 2016. The man claims that his cancer is the result of long-time use of the carcinogenic weed killer, Roundup, which is manufactured by Monsanto. The judge rejected arguments that the plaintiffs’ allegations are preempted by the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), according to Law360.
Monsanto argued for dismissal of the lawsuit that it claims attempted to hold Monsanto accountable for the man’s 2015 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The argument failed when presented to U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria who found that the plaintiff’s state’s (California) failure-to-warn claims are valid and based on FIFRA, meaning they are not preempted by the Act, as Monsanto claimed, wrote Law360.
Judge Chhabria did acknowledge that California law “can sometimes” allow a manufacturer to escape liability when a warning would be uncalled for; however, the man’s claims arise out of FIFRA’s stricter provision that mandates “adequate” warning with no regard to reasonableness, according to Law360. “In this light, it’s hard to see how” the plaintiff’s “failure-to-warn claims could ‘be construed more broadly than’ FIFRA,” the judge said on April 8, 2016. “Indeed,” the man’s “complaint explicitly bases his California-law failure-to-warn claims on Monsanto’s alleged violation of FIFRA.” Monsanto’s argument that the man’s failure-to-warn claims are also preempted since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Roundup’s product labels, Judge Chhabria said that approval does not prohibit private litigation on FIFRA. “The mere fact that the EPA has approved a product label does not prevent a jury from finding that that same label violates FIFRA,” he said.
The judge also rejected Monsanto’s claim that the plaintiff cannot continue with his strict liability allegations since his claims that Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, a known carcinogen, are “inherently and unavoidably dangerous.” Hardeman alleges Roundup did not contain the warning it should have, according to the order and brought his lawsuit against Monsanto in early February 2016. The lawsuit alleges that Monsanto led to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system and white blood cells. He alleges that he regularly used Monsanto’s Roundup since the 1980s to control poison oak and weeds on his property. He also alleges that Monsanto did not contain the appropriate warnings concerning the dangers the weed killer presented to human health and was generally “unfit and unsuitable to be marketed and sold in commerce,” his complaint indicates.
The plaintiff also claims Monsanto has been aware of Roundup’s carcinogenic properties since shortly after its development in 1974 and cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 study designating glyphosate as an herbicide “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Due to IARC’s findings, the California EPA followed with an announcement in September 2015 that it would officially list glyphosate as a known carcinogen under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.
Monsanto followed with a lawsuit against the California EPA, arguing in January 2016 Monsanto’s right to due process was violated by the proposal.
Meanwhile, Monsanto faces an array of other lawsuits over the allegedly cancer-causing nature of Monsanto’s Roundup, predominantly in California. In at least two cases, Monsanto alleged a lawsuit was preempted by FIFRA; in another case, Monsanto made similar claims. The various plaintiffs are diagnosed with multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Questions Raised Over Emails Revealed in Monsanto Federal Lawsuit
Documents released in late July 2017 in a lawsuit brought against Monsanto raised new questions concerning the company’s efforts to influence news media and scientific research and also exposed an internal Monanto debate over the safety of the weed killer, Roundup. According to The New York Times, the case in federal court in San Francisco, California raises questions about Monanto’s practices, as well as the safety of Roundup.
The lawsuit documents how far Monsanto is willing to go to protect its image and reveal that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal advocate of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that, for the most part, was the same as one written with his byline on Forbes’s website in 2015.
Another academic issue was seen in research with an academic involved in writing Monsanto-funded research. The research was written by John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, who—at the time—seemed to express discomfort with the process. According to The New York Times, Mr. Acquavella wrote a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive that indicated, “I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.” Mr. Acquavella also said of the way in which Monsanto was attempting to present the authorship that, “We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.” For its part, a Monsanto official said the comments were due to “a complete misunderstanding” that had been “worked out,” while Mr. Acquavella also wrote in a recent email that, “there was no ghostwriting.” He alleged that his comments related to a prior draft and a question over authorship that was purportedly resolved.
The documents revealed internal chatter concerning the safety of Roundup. “If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react—with serious concern,” one Monsanto scientist wrote in an internal 2001 email. For its part, Monsanto indicted that it was outraged by the documents’ release by a law firm involved in the litigation. “There is a standing confidentiality order that they violated,” said Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto. He said that while “you can’t unring a bell,” Monsanto would seek penalties on the firm. “What you’re seeing are some cherry-picked things that can be made to look bad,” Mr. Partridge said. “But the substance and the science are not affected by this.”
The firm that released the documents, indicated that Monsanto erred by not filing a required motion that would seek ongoing protection of the documents. Monsanto indicated that no such filing was necessary. “Clearly Monsanto’s lawyers made a mistake…. They didn’t properly take action to preserve the confidentiality of these documents,” a member of the firm pointed out. He added, “Now the world gets to see these documents that would otherwise remain secret,” The New York Times reported.
Mr. Miller’s 2015 article on Forbes’s website was described by The New York Times as “an attack on the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization that had labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen. In an email, a Monsanto staff member asked Mr. Miller if he would be interested in writing an article on the topic. Mr. Miller responded saying “I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft.” The article appeared under Mr. Miller’s byline and with the proclamation that “opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.” The magazine never mentioned involvement by Monsanto in preparation of the article. “That was a collaborative effort, a function of the outrage we were hearing from many people on the attacks on glyphosate,” Mr. Partridge of Monsanto said. “This is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It’s an op-ed we collaborated with him on.”
Forbes removed the story from its website in late July 2017 and indicated that it had ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the disclosures. “All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing,” Mia Carbonell, a Forbes spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed his blog from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him.”
Mr. Miller’s work has also appeared in the opinion pages of The New York Times. “We have never paid Dr. Miller,” said Sam Murphey, a spokesman for Monsanto. “Our scientists have never collaborated with Dr. Miller on his submissions to The New York Times. Our scientists have on occasion collaborated with Dr. Miller on other pieces.” James Dao, the Op-Ed editor of The Times, said in a statement, “Op-Ed contributors to The Times must sign a contract requiring them to avoid any conflict of interest, and to disclose any financial interest in the subject matter of their piece.”
The documents also reveal that a debate outside Monsanto concerning the comparative safety of glyphosate and Roundup took place at Monsanto. The New York Times noted that Roundup also contains other chemicals.
In a 2002 email, a Monsanto executive wrote, “What I’ve been hearing from you is that this continues to be the case with these studies — Glyphosate is O.K. but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.” In a 2003 email, a different Monsanto executive wrote, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”
The documents also reveal that A. Wallace Hayes, former editor of the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, has had a contractual relationship with Monsanto. In 2013, while still editor, he retracted a key study damaging to Monsanto that found Roundup—as well as genetically modified corn—could cause cancer and early death in rats. In an interview, Mr. Hayes said that he had not been under contract with Monsanto at the time of the retraction and that he received payment after he left the journal. “Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract,” he said. “It was based on input that I got from some very well-respected people, and also my own evaluation.”
WHO Report on Glyphosate Cancer Link
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer group, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announced in 2015 that glyphosate, one of the ingredients in Roundup, is “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans,” according to The New York Times. The agency made the classification based on studies of glyphosate exposure in the United States, Canada, and Sweden since 2001. WHO noted that evidence exists that glyphosate may be cancer-causing to people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Glyphosate has been found in food, water, and air following spraying, according to the report. The IARC also noted that the EPA has approved increased tolerance levels for glyphosate in 2013.
Roundup’s main active weed killer ingredient may lead to a variety of significant and deadly diseases, including:
- Leukemia: Multiple myeloma, myeloma
- Lymphoma: Non-Hodgkin’s, Hodgkin’s
- Parkinson’s disease.
Monsanto Sues California EPA
Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the State of California’s EPA in January 2016. The lawsuit was filed in an effort to prevent the EPA from following the WHO’s recommended cancer classification of glysophate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Monsanto claims that the agency “blindly” followed WHO’s panel’s designation. Monsanto also alleges that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment stopped its right to due process when attempting to list glyphosate as known to California state to cause cancer under Proposition 65. The case is Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment et al., case number 16-CECG-00183, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Fresno.
Among other things, Proposition 65, which was passed in 1986, is meant to help ensure pollutants that cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm are kept out of drinking water. The law also states that businesses must post a warning when their operations or products will expose people to chemicals on the state’s list.
Monsanto challenged the legal mechanism associated with California’s listing, indicating that the move was “virtually automatic” following IARC’s finding that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic. Monsanto also alleged that the portion of California’s Labor Code citing IARC’s findings is a basis for Proposition 65 listings and is in violation of the California and United States Constitutions.
Meanwhile, a farmer in Hawaii and a former California field worker cited the IARC’s findings in lawsuits alleging Roundup caused their cancers; Monsanto has moved to dismiss these cases.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and Various Cancers Associated with Glyphosate
- Blurred vision with excessive tearing
- Contracted pupils
- Excessive sweating, salivation
- Hand Tremors
- Loss of appetite associated with nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea
- Loss of Coordination
- Slow pulse
- Anemia (low red blood count)
- Chest pain, pressure
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Feeling full after small meals
- Night Sweats
- Shortness of breath, cough
- Swollen belly
- Weight Loss
- Enlarged spleen (pain, swelling, discomfort in the abdomen)
- Night sweats
- Pain, swelling in the neck, head, groin
- Weight loss
- Easy bleeding, bruising
- Frequent or severe infections
- Petechiae (tiny red skin spots)
- Recurrent nose bleeds
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Weight loss
Parkinson’s Disease (general)
- Abnormal tone, stiffness in the body, arms, and legs
- Continuous “pill-rolling” motion of the thumb and forefinger
- Decreased eye blinking, facial expression
- Difficulty rising from a sitting position
- Lightheadedness, fainting when standing
- Monotonous speech
- Slowness of voluntary movements, especially when starting these movements, such as walking or rolling over in bed
- Shuffling with poor arm swing and stooped posture
- Swallowing problems in later stages
- Unsteady balance
In its March 2015 report, the IARC wrote that, “Glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides. The largest use worldwide is in agriculture. The agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate.”
According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) in 2015, the herbicide glyphosate is applied to the leaves of plants and is meant to kill broadleaf plants and grasses. Glyphosate is used in agriculture; forestry; lawns; gardens; weeds in industrial areas; and, in some cases, aquatic plants. Glyphosate is also known as a non-selective herbicide. This means it will kill most plants and prevents plants from making certain proteins needed for the plant and microorganism growth. The NPIC is a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the EPA.
How Exposure to Glyphosate Occurs
The NPIC notes that people may be exposed to glyphosate when using glyphosate-containing products. Roundup is one such product.
Glyphosate may get on the skin, in the eyes, on the hands, in the mouth, and in the lungs. Exposure may occur by touching the product and then touching other parts of your skin, such as your eyes. Exposure may also occur by breathing in the product when spraying. You may also be exposed by swallowing a product such as Roundup if eating or smoking after spraying without first washing your hands.
Roundup Cancer Studies
New studies link Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer and Parkinson’s disease. A 2011 report published in the journal Parkinsonism Related Disorders discussed a 44-year-old woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease symptoms after three years of glyphosate exposure when she worked in a chemical factory.
In 2014, Rodale Wellness wrote about a large increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases in the prior 30 years. A review, published in 2014 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, looked at 44 scientific papers to understand how 80 active ingredients in 21 different chemical classes affected farm workers’ risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The IARC found that exposure to glyphosate doubled a person’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A 2014 Norwegian study found very high levels of Roundup in U.S. genetically engineered soy crops.
Glyphosate is so heavily used that it is being found in the rain. The growth is blamed on the increase in genetically engineered seeds, which are needed to survive heavy spraying that may lead to glyphosate toxicity from the weed killer, Roundup. Weeds are becoming resistant to glyphosate due to its overuse and farmers are using more and more of the weed killer to compensate for this resistance.
“Data has been emerging that point to various health and environmental consequences resulting from glyphosate and Roundup use. These include an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” among others, said Warren Porter, PhD, professor of environmental toxicology and former chair of zoology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Roundup is sprayed on millions of acres of crops. Scientists remain worried about Roundup’s health effects because glyphosate residue may increase the dangers of other chemicals and toxins found on crops. These substances may interfere with bodily functions, potentially leading to conditions such as various cancers—Leukemias and Lymphomas—and Parkinson’s disease. According to a study published in the journal Entropy in April 2013, the authors said that, “[Glyphosate’s] negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.” The researchers also said further review is critical and that their study “hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated.” Their study is one of many pieces of evidence to be submitted to the EPA, which is conducting a standard registration review of the chemical, glyphosate, to determine if it should be restricted.
Other studies have found similar links to Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various leukemias, as well.
Due to Roundup’s Cancer Link, France Banned the Weed Killer
In 2015, France banned Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer after the United Nations (UN) classified Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, as a probable carcinogen. According to The Independent, French Ecology, Minister Segolene Royal, said, “France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides…. I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale”
Andreas Kortenkamp, professor of human toxicology at Brunel University, London, told The Independent in March 2015 that, “Professional gardeners would use industrial strength glyphosate to totally wipe their garden of all plants. Amateur gardeners can also buy it as Roundup in a formulation which is not as strong.” Regarding glyphosate toxicity, she adds that, “Anyone who sprays it could get a whiff of it. People should be very careful with this stuff and consider whether they need it. Home gardeners should hand weed to be on the safe side.”
Argentina Town Demands Action Over High Cancer Rates Associated with Weed Killers, Glyphosate
In May 2015, residents of a town in Argentina demanded action on high cancer death rates seen there. Nearly half of the deaths in recent years were caused by cancer; the national average is 18 percent.
Residents say the cancers were caused by heavy weed killer use on rice and soybean plots. “There’s something going on here,” said a local resident involved in the community group, “Todos por Todos,” formed after the sudden death of a friend from a brain tumor. Many believe the high cancer rate has to do with weed killer chemicals that are widely used there.
Entre Ríos, the area involved, recently increased production of rice and soybeans, which are grown with the use of various pesticides and herbicides that maybe harmful to humans. Chemicals are sprayed on fields by special tractors and crop-dusting planes and may drift to nearby areas. Workers are exposed to the chemicals when tending and harvesting crops.
Reports note that there are limits on how close to neighborhoods farmers may spray, but that these limits are often ignored. Also, there are claims that discarded pesticide canisters have contaminated ground water in some neighborhoods.
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