Over the last three decades, Roundup became synonymous with farming. Farmer John Barton would use a thousand gallons a day just to get rid of the weeds which would grow in his farm just out of Bakersfield in California.
The 3 children of the Barton’s would also regularly help out when using the tractor was not an option. The entire family would go back home, completely soaked in sweat and Roundup. The chemical would be everywhere.
The parent company of Roundup, Monsanto, asserted it was just as safe as regular old table salt. One could even drink it! The chemical would apparently just kill off the weed by getting into its root.
Now Barton is at the ripe old age of 70 and retired from the life of farming since 2010. He intended to shift to the northern part of Idaho along with Mrs. Barton. But unfortunately for him, Roundup, which was apparently as harmless as table salt, might have resulted in the diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. His lymph nodes swelling and his life in shambles.
Mr. Barton is one of the 40 plaintiffs in litigation against Bayer AG, the parent company of Monsanto. The more shocking fact is that there are about 11,000 cases that are pending against the corporation. The cases draw grounds on the use of glyphosate, the primary part of Roundup. It has been a part of the compound since the 1970s.
Fortunately enough, a Californian federal judge ordered the organization to start mediation and attempt to settle all the cases. Monsanto, however, has been a staunch defender of their product. In all of this hullabaloo, Monsanto was taken over by Bayer last year since the month of June.
The Acquisition and The Stock Price Plummet
The lawsuits which Bayer had to decidedly undertake as a part of its ownership of Roundup has cost it giant sums of cash. Bayer AG awarded humongous amounts of money to a lot of people. The most remarkable one being the $2 billion dollars awarded to a couple in California most recently.
The couple in question are Alberta and Alva Pilliod from Livermore in California. Both of them were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma caused by the long-term usage of Roundup for several years on their lawns. The jury arrived at the damage settlement of $1 billion per person in favor of the couple when the 5-week trial ended. They were also awarded $55 million just in damages.
As per the winning attorney, Brent Wisner, the case was loaded with hard science, raw data, and studies which the EPA had not seen. All of which conclusively led to the conclusion that Roundup causes cancer.
The company, however, obviously denied all allegation and is looking to appeal the final verdict. Bayer substantiates that leading regulators of health deem glyphosate-using products safe and non-carcinogenic. They assert that the research is based on scientific study spread over four decades.
The attorneys of Bayer AG said to the press that they would challenge the ruling the court presented to them. The challenge would be based on the grounds that the EPA – which is the highest regulatory organization in the U.S.A deemed glyphosate safe for use and non-cancerous. Hence, Bayer cannot be held accountable and the cases have no merit.
As per Wisner though, it does not seem like an argument to win.
Wisner states that his team is in possession of internal documents of Monsanto which admits that Roundup is a geno-toxic product. Which not only proves that it is indeed toxic, but also that they knew perfectly well that it was harmful. Wisner also states that FDA and EPA approved products and drugs have been deemed unfit in lawsuits prior to this. So there is nothing that excuses the liability of Bayer AG.
Wisner’s team also provided plenty of evidence which clearly shows Monsanto encouraged its own workers to wear safety and insulation gear. The team also possessed an internal study at Monsanto which prescribed individuals to wear protective gear while using the product.
Mixed Consensus Amongst Farmers About Roundup
The herbicide in the highest use in the US is glyphosate, which is applied majorly onto farmlands.
As per Environmental Sciences Europe, the use of the compound more than doubled from 1974 to 2014, from being 635,000 to about 1.25 million kg respectively. This in its entirety accounted for 74% global consumption.
Regardless of the concerns, glyphosate still happens to be a very effective tool and the farming community stands by it. Stanley Culpepper, extension agronomist and professor of Crop and Soil Science Department at Georgia University, is a staunch believer of the product. He thinks it is vital to control weeds to feed our population in the most efficient and effective manner.
Culpepper has talked with farmers who are also concerned with the possibility of carcinogens in these herbicides. Interestingly, the faith they have in the regulatory body and an effective product is majorly unshaken.
Which in turn means that Roundup is not going to go anywhere, at least not anytime soon.
Culpepper is of the belief that people who believe regulatory bodies are perfectly fine and he stands behind the science, as a scientist himself.
However, environmental groups and advocates for public health are asking questions as to if the EPA is truly doing their duty. They are using the statement that WHO warned glyphosate is possibly carcinogenic.
Farmers in general though are of the belief that Roundup needs to stay, given the fact that they are facing economic issues like deflationary trends, the trade war with China, and several natural calamities.
Wisner and the team maintain that they are not trying to bring in more hardship to an already struggling industry. All they are trying to do is make the corporation pay for the fact that they mislead their users.
They are not fighting the lawsuit because the product is the cause of cancer. But they are fighting because the company did not warn the people that it can be carcinogenic.
The sole aim is: The organization needs to take responsibility for the product they sell.
Image Credit: Flickr & DPP LAW