Hawaii Lawsuit Forces Monsato to Face Human Consequences of Cancer-Linked RoundUp

Last week, Monsanto announced that it is suing to block states from following the World Health Organization’s recommendation that they protect their citizens by listing glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer RoundUp—as a known carcinogen. Today, one of the nation’s leading law firms announced it had filed suit against Monsanto in the Federal District Court of Hawaii on behalf of Hawaii 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 today on behalf of Hawaii resident Christine Sheppard and her husband Kenneth. “Christine’s lawsuit will force Monsanto to face the human consequences of their lies.”

Christine and Kenneth Sheppard lived on a coffee farm and applied RoundUp to their crops over a number of years. Christine was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003 and had to seek treatment in California. As her cancer worsened, she had to make the difficult decision to relocate to the mainland, giving up her lifelong dream of owning and operating a coffee farm.

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 em-paneled 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 herbicide 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 Christine Sheppard continue to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

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