Reckoning on Round-Up
Glyphosate (a.k.a. Round-up), the most widely used pesticide in the U.S., has been an elusive public health adversary. But, in the last year, the carcinogenic menace has faced a reckoning. Last August, a jury ruled that Round-up caused a person’s cancer. This spring, Los Angeles County joined other local governments in banning glyphosate from its properties. And, as the growing season begins, Bayer, which owns Round-up maker Monsanto, faces multiple lawsuits over its toxic “solution” to Round-up resistant weeds. The long-term impacts of glyphosate use on human health and the environment are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Monsanto long touted Round-up’s “tremendous safety record” for human health, calling reports that glyphosate likely causes cancer “junk science.” Yet, two juries have named glyphosate the cause of a patient’s cancer, awarding millions in damages, and Bayer faces lawsuits from 11,000 more patients with similar claims. Scientists have recently found a “compelling link” between risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and high exposure to glyphosate, supporting the conclusions from both juries.
Monsanto has also long claimed that Round-up helps farmers earn a better living while causing less environmental harm than other pesticides. That argument hasn’t held up either because of a simple ecological fact. When many farmers use one weed-killer repeatedly over millions of acres, some weeds eventually develop resistance to the chemical—and then the resistant weeds spread. That’s what has happened with Round-up, and the consequences have been devastating.
Monsanto’s “solution” for farmers involves planting a new genetically-modified seed and spraying the highly toxic pesticide, dicamba, in addition to Round-up. That so-called solution has created far larger problems because dicamba drifts to neighbors’ homes and fields, hurting crops, trees, and other plants, including those bees need to survive. Dicamba drift has damaged millions of acres of other farmers’ crops and inflamed disputes between neighbors. Dozens of farmers are suing Bayer for financial compensation, arguing that the company promoted dicamba knowing it would drift. The first lawsuit goes to trial this fall.
Questions remain about just how much Monsanto and Bayer have known about these human and environmental harms and how much they may have hidden from regulators and the public. What we can say for sure is that there’s no question how much corporate transparency and accountability matter when it comes to public safety. FIC is currently working with whistleblowers who want the public to know what goes on behind the scenes at pesticide companies, but we can’t go public with the details quite yet.
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