That weed killer buried in your garage is receiving a lot of media attention lately, thanks in part to a trial that recently concluded in San Francisco’s Superior Court.
Why are people suing Roundup’s manufacturer? And how safe is your go-to herbicide really? We break down some of the most common questions circulating these lawsuits.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is an active ingredient found in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. It’s an herbicide that kills broadleaf plants and grasses.
Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed each year, making it the most used herbicide in the world.
Why are people filing lawsuits against Monsanto?
Thousands of farmers, gardeners, and groundskeepers have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, alleging that glyphosate may cause cancer.
The lawsuits claim that Monsanto knew that glyphosate exposure could increase the risk of developing cancer, but failed to warn consumers about it on the product labels. They also argue that Monsanto tried to cover up Roundup’s health risks by misinforming government agencies and the public of its safety.
Wait…Monsanto misled government agencies about Roundup’s safety?
Monsanto employees allegedly recommended that they ghostwrite sections of the EPA’s final report on glyphosate.
According to hundreds of pages worth of internal emails and documents released in trial, it appears that some collusion may have happened.
One email recounted that Jess Rowland, former manager of the EPA pesticide division, allegedly discussed how to stop the EPA’s safety review of glyphosate. Rowland allegedly told Monsanto’s regulatory affairs manager, “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.”
Other documents suggest that Monsanto employees recommended that they ghostwrite sections of the EPA’s final report on glyphosate to reduce costs.
In one email, Scott Partridge, Monsanto Vice President of Global Strategy, allegedly said that Monsanto should “ghost-write the Exposure [toxicity] and [genotoxicity] sections.” Those sections of the report examine how people are exposed to glyphosate, and whether or not glyphosate damages cell genes—so ultimately, whether or not glyphosate may increase the risk of cancer.
Another released internal letter claims that the EPA scientists who were trying to do their jobs and properly assess the chemical were pressured by Rowland and other EPA officials to do otherwise. “You and Anna Lowit intimidated staff on CARC [Cancer Assessment Review Committee]…to favor industry,” former EPA toxicologist Marion Copley accused in a letter to Rowland.”
Does Roundup cause cancer?
Many health agencies and scientists around the world have alleged that exposure to glyphosate may increase the risk of developing cancer.
Over time, one 2013 study claimed, glyphosate may damage cellular systems.
In 2013, scientists Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff published a report in the peer-reviewed journal Entropy concluding that over time glyphosate may damage cellular systems throughout the body. One consequence of this, Samsel and Seneff say, is cancer.
Another study published in a 2015 edition of Environ Health found that some rats exposed to Roundup in low doses suffered kidney and liver damage. The study concluded that long-term, low-dose exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides “can result in liver and kidney damage with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.”
But perhaps the most influential study came from the World Health Organization’s International Association of Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC scientists conducted a systemic review of all publicly available glyphosate research, excluding those studies conducted by the chemical industry unless they were published in respected sources like peer-reviewed journals or by government agencies. Based on their results, the scientists classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
The chemical industry has attacked the IARC’s research the most, even going so far as to claim that the international body of scientists produces “junk science.” You can read the IARC’s response to those criticisms here.
How many lawsuits have been filed?
Approximately 8,000 lawsuits await trial in state and federal courts. These are consolidated in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) In re: RoundUp Products Liability.
Have there been any verdicts or settlements?
Yes. The first Roundup lawsuit that went to trial resulted in a $289 million verdict.
The lawsuit was filed by Dewayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper for a San Francisco Bay Area school who used Roundup regularly for his job. His attorneys said he even got soaked with the herbicide on two occasions, most recently in 2012. When he developed a rash after one of these incidents, Mr. Johnson said he contacted the company but was allegedly never informed of the herbicide’s cancer risk.
In 2014, Mr. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
To this day, he says he is in constant pain, with 80% of his body covered in lesions. The money recovered in trial will help Mr. Johnson live the remainder of his life in comfort, and take care of his medical bills; his wife testified that she is currently working two jobs to cover the medical costs.
How has Monsanto responded to litigation? Are they going to add a warning to Roundup labels now?
After the recent $289 million verdict, Monsanto announced that they would continue to fight the thousands of Roundup lawsuits before them. “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product,” said Monsanto’s Scott Partridge.
If we ever see a cancer warning on Roundup labels, it will most likely be because the company was forced to add one. California recently attempted to require that cancer warnings be published on Roundup bottles, but was promptly sued by Monsanto. Earlier this year, a federal judge blocked the state from requiring the warning label.
Who can file a Roundup lawsuit?
Anyone who has been exposed to Roundup and has developed lymphatic cancer, like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, within the last decade may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits can help recover compensation for past and future medical bills, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation legal review. Our team will tell you if you may have a case.