In the past week, two court rulings upended the world of pesticides as whistleblowers and advocates refused to stop fighting to expose the truth about glyphosate and chlorpyrifos. The two rulings took action against these chemicals which have been shown to cause cancer, developmental problems in babies, and other illnesses.
Glyphosate: Monsanto’s Popular Product Ruled to Cause Cancer
Despite having been ruled by the World Health Organization as a “probable carcinogen,” glyphosate, also known as Roundup, had been regularly used by Monsanto on GMO “round-up ready” plants in order to kill the weeds but not the crop itself. However, on Friday, a jury ruled that not only did glyphosate cause fatal non-Hodgkins lymphoma in a 46-year-old man who used the products, but that Monsanto, the chemical’s maker, knew about the risks and failed to warn the public. The jury awarded the plaintiff nearly $300 million in damages. Stock in Bayer, which owns Monsanto, plummeted.
There are thousands of other on-going cases, alleging glyphosate caused cancer and other illnesses in its users. This first verdict sets the stage for future rulings for those suffering glyphosphate’s toxic effects.
Chlorpyrifos: Trump Administration Forced to Ban Chemical that Damages Babies’ Brains
Chlorpyrifos has long been known to be a dangerous neurotoxin and the government has restricted its sale for use at home and use near schools and playgrounds. Nonetheless, farmers frequently spray it on crops and in apple and citrus orchards, leaving small residues on the food. The EPA set a legal limit for how much was safe for consumers, but scientists discovered that, even below that limit, exposure to those residues harmed infants’ brain development. Additionally, farmworkers who applied the chemical and those who lived near the fields where it was applied faced much higher risk of exposure. After a risk assessment in 2016, the Obama administration worked to ban the pesticide entirely, but the Trump administration, in the form of former EPA head Scott Pruitt, tossed the ban aside. Environmental and farmworker groups sued the administration, and now this toxic chemical has been court-ordered off store shelves in 60 days.
Implications for the Food System
Two major pesticides that threaten public health have been dealt heavy blows, but efforts to keep workers and consumers safe from harmful chemicals aren’t over yet. If you haven’t yet, consider following us on Facebook and keeping up with pesticide litigation.