California Lawsuit Forces Monsanto to Face Human Consequences of Cancer-Linked RoundUp
Last week, Monsanto announced that it is suing to block the state of California from protecting its residents by listing glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer RoundUp—as a known carcinogen. One of the nation’s leading law firms announced it had filed suit against Monsanto in the Superior Court of California for San Francisco County and the Superior Court of California for Riverside County on behalf of California residents who developed the cancer linked to RoundUp following significant exposure.
“Monsanto’s misinformation campaign is costing lives,” said Michael Miller of the Miller Firm, which filed against Monsanto on behalf of California residents Brenda Huerta and Dewayne Johnson. “Brenda and Dewayne’s lawsuit will force Monsanto to face the human consequences of their lies.”
California has the highest level of glyphosate usage (some counties use over 2 million pounds of glyphosate each year) and the most cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer linked to RoundUp, in the United States.
Brenda Huerta and her husband James lived on a commercial sod farm in Riverside County for several years, which exposed them frequently to RoundUp. Brenda was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013. Dewayne Johnson was employed by a school district in San Francisco County where his duties included application of RoundUp to athletic fields and other school properties. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2014. He was trained on safe application of RoundUp, but had no idea it posed a cancer risk until that hit the news in 2015.
Despite Monsanto downplaying the World Health Organization’s conclusion that the active ingredient in its best-selling weed killer is a “probable human carcinogen” (Monsanto’s lawsuit refers to WHO’s finding as “the determination of an ad hoc committee”), here are the facts:
- The World Health Organization’s comprehensive study considered the chemical properties of RoundUp, means of exposure, previous cohort and case control studies, and animal experiments.
- The WHO empaneled 18 independent scientific experts from 11 countries, including a retired head of the US National Cancer Institute, and permitted Monsanto to send a delegate to the proceedings.
- In March 2015, the panel released its findings, unanimously concluding that there is “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity” in animal exposure, and that the chemical is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). This is the same category of carcinogenicity that includes DDT.
Monsanto’s attempt to hide the adverse affects of RoundUp follows a pattern of misinformation:
- The US EPA had considered RoundUp a “possible carcinogen” in the 1980s but following input from Monsanto, dropped that classification (although the reviewing committee was split and one member refused to sign).
- Reports from the EPA secured via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that Monsanto was aware of the link between RoundUp and cancer over 30 years ago, but was able to convince the EPA to ignore Monsanto’s own early studies and rely almost entirely on later pesticide industry-funded studies where the link was less clear.
- As with other U.S. regulatory agencies, EPA did not perform its own testing on RoundUp but relied on the manufacturer, and did not review epidemiological studies.
- Since that time, Monsanto has marketed RoundUp as “practically non-toxic” to humans. Accordingly, sales of the product have skyrocketed over the years, due also in part to the massive marketing of “RoundUp-ready” crops, genetically engineered by Monsanto to be resistant to RoundUp application.
Meanwhile, farm workers and others exposed to the chemical like Brenda Huerta and Dewayne Johnson continue to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.