Earlier this month in a landmark lawsuit, headlines shouted out how San Francisco’s Superior Court ordered the Monsanto company to pay $289 million in damages, finding that Roundup, their glyphosate weed killing product, caused school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson’s Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Many were shocked over the extreme monetary judgment.
They needn’t be.
For more than half a century, Monsanto’s Roundup has left a trail of tears all over the planet. The world’s most used herbicide is good at what it does: killing weeds. But it’s also good at what it shouldn’t be doing: killing and maiming all other life forms.
If Roundup was a person, it would be a drug lord with a rap sheet comparable to Pablo Escobar’s. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Another major court case is scheduled for October.
Sometimes it seems Monsanto is in the news every day for its unheralded ability to cause havoc among the living. Just a week after the San Francisco Superior Court ruling, an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study came out reporting “significant levels” of Roundup’s glyphosate in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats, and snack bars marketed to U.S. children.
In an interview in The Guardian, EWG’s president Ken Cook said:
“No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so.” And, “It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate.”
That troubling feeling goes way back.
As reported by the New York Times, in just one of their many crimes against humanity, Monsanto was fined $700 million for intentionally polluting an economically deprived Alabama town with deadly PCBs, which earned them this glowing review by the courts:
“So outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”
(HoneyColony wrote about the little known toxic travesty of Anniston, Alabama, in what would become a very popular piece.)
Or take the disaster in the U.K. where a mass spraying of Roundup took place to make certain areas more appealing to tourists. But the glyphosate ended up in waterways resulting in the deaths of fish, mammals, plants, and important pollinators like bees and moths. The incidence of breast cancer also doubled. Analysis in local tap water revealed a tenfold increase of glyphosate.
A Monsanto Tribunal was formed to investigate. The five judges of the Monsanto Tribunal agreed that:
- Monsanto had violated human rights to food, health, a healthy environment, and the freedom indispensable for independent scientific research.
- “Ecocide” should be recognized as a crime in international law.
- Human rights and environmental laws are undermined by corporate-friendly trade and investment regulation.
Glyphosate: The Spray That Keeps On Killing
Glyphosate is the most heavily used weed killer in human history — and it accounts for the majority of Monsanto’s profits. Research shows that in addition to glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup –“trade secret” ingredients amplify the toxic effects of Roundup. No wonder The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
According to EcoWatch, research also suggests that glyphosate may have additional health impacts including disruption of the endocrine system and other biological processes – impacts that can be amplified by the “inert” ingredients in Roundup. Independent scientists recommend a limit on glyphosate exposure at least 17 times lower than current U.S. regulation.
Glyphosate kills plants by stopping them from creating proteins responsible for growth. Turns out glyphosate also damages beneficial gut bacteria.
One study demonstrated how glyphosate is bad news for the good microbes in your gut but not a big deal for highly pathogenic bad bacteria such as Salmonella, which has an amazing resistance. Think of that next time you’re sipping on a Budweiser, which is made from glyphosate drench wheat.
A bio-monitoring study by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) identified glyphosate in 93 percent of individuals tested and in 60 percent of surface water in the Midwest. The herbicide has been found to persist in water and soil up to a year in some conditions.
Tests show that people in 18 countries across Europe have glyphosate in their bodies, while yet another study revealed that the chemical has estrogenic properties and drives breast cancer proliferation in the parts-per-trillion range.
Health should be our biological norm. Yet, in the last century, it’s become an anomaly. There are now over 150 autoimmune conditions (58 million cases in America alone) — counting just the ones that have been identified by modern medicine. Half the women and two-thirds of men will get cancer in their lifetime, with over 100 forms of cancer to pick and choose from.
The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) says only one in 20 people worldwide are healthy, while one in three experienced more than five ailments in 2013.
Every one in two people today suffers from a chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than one study has linked the increase of chronic disease to glyphosate herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup.
But why would Monsanto care? This is also the same company that made a ton of money with a little product called Agent Orange, an herbicide and defoliant chemical, widely known for its use by the U.S. military during the Vietnam war to prevent the enemy from hiding in the dense rainforest canopy.
According to the Washington Post, up to 4 million people in Vietnam were exposed to the defoliant. The government of Vietnam says as many as 3 million people have suffered illnesses because of Agent Orange.
Research proved the chemical in Agent Orange is capable of damaging genes, resulting in deformities among the offspring of exposed victims. The U.S. government has documented higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and various kinds of cancer in exposed veterans. Agent Orange also caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam.
And then there was Monsanto’s DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a commonly used pesticide designed to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. But it was also deadly to birds (read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), bees, and has been linked to damaging the liver, reducing reproductive success, and causing temporary damages to the nervous system, amongst other dangers.
Roundup, glyphosate, PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT. Could it get any worse?
GMOS: Monsanto’s Seeds Of Destruction
Monsanto is also the largest biotech company in the world and the No. 1 maker of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Why did Monsanto get involved in this? Genetically engineered crops are the largest driver of glyphosate sales. GMO seeds are modified to have a tolerance to herbicides. The idea being this makes killing weeds around crops much easier since growers don’t have to worry about spraying poison directly on their cash plants.
Genetic modifications also give plants the ability to produce their own pesticide.
As a result, U.S. farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicides between 1996 and 2008 alone.
So now 70 percent of processed foods in the United States from soda crackers to children’s cereals, contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Starting in 1996, GMOs were sneaked into our food without a trace of government testing to determine their safety for human consumption. By 2005, the number of Americans with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled. Allergy-related visits to the emergency room also doubled between 1997 and 2002.
In March 2001, CDC reported that compared to seven years earlier, Americans were suffering from twice the number of food-related illnesses.
In 2014, Natural Society reported a study that linked GMOs with over 22 different diseases.
You Can Change Your Name But Not The Blame
On May 29, Monsanto merged with Bayer. Oddly, Bayer quickly announced that Monsanto would not be part of the newly merged company’s name. As reported in Fortune, acquirers don’t typically change the name of the companies they’re buying when the name is so well known to its customers.
“Given the international rejection of GMOs, and Monsanto’s brand name being in shambles, it is not surprising that Bayer decided to drop the name altogether,” says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety (CFS).
It’s unlikely that all the victims of Monsanto will ever forget the name Monsanto and its association with death and suffering.
“Bayer should not assume that just by dropping a name they have dropped the liability,” says Kimbrell. “The worldwide food and environmental movements know that Bayer is now the new Monsanto.”
And of course there’s still Monsanto’s prodigy out there like their favorite sons Roundup and Roundup Plus. Perhaps those names will also be changed soon. Maybe to something like Hootenanny or Yabadabadoo — regular and plus.
Ironically, the German-owned pharmaceutical giant Bayer has had its own share of PR challenges. Operating under the flagship corporation IG Farben, Bayer was so instrumental in the Nazi war effort,that the 1946 Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal concluded the Second World War would simply have not been possible without them.
Shares in Bayer plunged more than 10 percent to their lowest in almost two years after San Francisco’s Superior Court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages.
Isn’t Anyone Paying Attention?
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Monsanto debacle is that it has gone on for so long. While the U.S. has done virtually nothing to protect its citizens, a number of cities, counties, states and countries throughout the world have taken steps to either restrict or ban glyphosate.
Over the past decades, there’s been a revolving door of high-ranking figures who run, advise, or work for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA,) Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after doing a stint at Monsanto, compromising oversight and sowing the seeds for a conflict of interest.
Michael R. Taylor, the former Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the FDA, held his position for over six years – finally stepping down in 2016. Before his post he worked as an attorney to establish food and drug law practices for Monsanto where he later became vice president for the company’s Public Policy.
A year ago, documents were released that showed Monsanto deliberately has been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature, and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. Brent Wisner, an attorney for a law firm representing plaintiffs suing Monsanto, said:
“They (Monsanto) have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators.”
Regarding the documents, environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said:
We can now prove that all Monsanto’s claims about glyphosate’s safety were myths concocted by amoral propaganda and lobbying teams. Monsanto has been spinning its lethal yarn to everybody for years and suborning various perjuries from regulators and scientists who have all been lying in concert to American farmers, landscapers and consumers.
Yet, in the U.S., Roundup continues to be sold, and now the Trump administration has approved Monsanto’s latest pesticide-GMO product, XtendiMax, a volatile dicamba pesticide.
The closest the U.S. came to banning glyphosate was on July 7, 2017, when California became the first state to issue a warning on glyphosate by adding the chemical to the state’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals and substances known to cause cancer.
Monsanto recently petitioned the California Supreme Court to hear its appeal to remove glyphosate from California’s list of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects. But the California Supreme Court refused.
This decision came just five days after a San Francisco jury found Monsanto responsible for Dewayne Johnson’s cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
CFS, which has battled Monsanto and its products for more than two decades, praised the California Supreme Court’s actions.
Regarding the Dewayne Johnson verdict, CFS Science Policy Analyst Bill Freese said:
“This verdict represents a victory of medical science over corporate propaganda, and will hopefully help other victims of Monsanto’s hazardous Roundup herbicide achieve some measure of justice.”
Freese only wishes the verdict had come sooner so much suffering could have been prevented.
“The EPA found glyphosate could possibly cause cancer back in the 1980s, then was strong-armed into reversing its position by Monsanto.”
Monsanto’s attorney machine is appealing the Dewayne Johnson decision.
Thomas Ropp Longtime journalist Thomas Ropp is an environmental advocate and proponent of living healthier. After spending most of his life in Arizona, he relocated to a Costa Rican rainforest 11 years ago and helped with reforestation projects to expand the habitat of the endangered mono titi monkey. He has dual residency in the United States and Costa Rica.
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