California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed killer Roundup as a carcinogen, according to a ruling by a judge in Fresno, California, although the corporation maintains that the product is harmless.
California would be the first state to order this level of labeling if this decision by the California Carcinogen Identification Committee is sustained by further court action. Monsanto previously sued the nation's foremost agricultural producing state by filing court motions to the effect that California’s carcinogen committee acting under the powers given to it by Proposition 65, had illegally based their decision for mandatorily requiring the warnings on “erroneous” findings by an international health organization based in France.
What is Roundup and what is the problem with its chief ingredient, glyphosphate?
Environmentalists, consumer protectionists, and straightforward victims of glyphosphate-caused cancers and related poisoning object to Roundup’s principle ingredient, the odorless and colorless glyphosate, which was patented by Monsanto then marketed as early as 1974 to kill weeds but leave crops (apparently) intact. In 2017, it is sold in more than 160 countries, and farmers in California use it on 250 types of crops.
Trenton Norris, Monsanto’s lawyer, argued in court Friday that the labels would result in irreparable and immediate negative fiscal effect for Monsanto, because millions of consumers stop buying Roundup because of the labels.
After the hearing, Monsanto responded to the ruling by threatening to challenge the ruling, about all it can do, at this point. The EPA, to date, has never issued any warnings about this pesticide or glyphosphate, nor is it any more like to do so over the next four years, given the current state of the EPA, recently suffering from hiring freezes and budget cuts, and which maybe in the process of being entirely dismantled.
The EPA has only mentioned Roundup’s “low toxicity,” suggesting that agricultural workers stay out of fields for 12-16 hours after Roundup has been broadcasted onto the crops.
However, the World Health Organization has taken an entirely different tack with its solid classification of Roundup as a “probable carcinogen,” after its own International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France ruled it as such. In 2015, California moved toward such a mandatory label after hearings by the Carcinogen Identification Committee, the same committee that is presently considering this kind of label on aspartame-containing products, because of the presence of methanol or wood alcohol, which is already considered a carcinogen in California.
Jack McCall was an avocado and apple farmer with only 20 acres and he carried around a backpack with Roundup for 30 years, and then died of cancer in 2015. His widow, Terri, strongly believes that any kind of warning about carcinogenicity would have prevented his entirely avoidable death. “I just don't think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known,” she stated. She is one of many who are suing Monsanto about Roundup for its having caused deaths of family members’ cancer who then died.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan has yet to issue a final formal decision, which she said would come soon.
Sam Delson, a spokesman for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment said that his Office will await formal final rulings before moving forward with the warnings, and that if any chemical is added to long lists of probable carcinogens, the manufacturer still has a year before it must attach the label.
Attorneys for California consider the International Agency for Research on Cancer the “gold standard” for identifying carcinogens, and they rely on its findings along with several states, the federal government and other countries, court papers say.
Monsanto is based in St. Louis, and their central argument is really quite a lame legal argument for such high powered lawyers from a company that had one of its corporate counsel become the US Attorney General (John Ashcroft) and presently has a former corporate counsel on the US Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas).
Their argument goes like this: California’s Carcinogen Identification Committee illegally delegated authority to an unelected foreign body with no accountability to U.S. or state officials, so this is therefore in violation of the California Constitution. In fact, the testimony from the World Health Organization was only a part of the CIC’s decision, which had a due process for a lengthy testimony period and oral hearings in Sacramento.
No doubt, Ajinomoto of Japan, the world’s largest maker of two neurotoxic food additives, MSG and Aspartame, will likely try some argument like Monsanto’s, if they hire competent lawyers to contest what has occurred thus far, and they are litigious bunch, in a very strange manner, like suing a grocery chain a few years back which described aspartame as “nasty,” and therefore, they got rid of it. The case was adjudicated in a curious British manner, giving both sides some of what they wanted.
California carcinogenic labeling is a much different matter, not a mere public relations blow to Monsanto, but one which will have massive international, legal, and even judicial implications far into the dismal future of this monstrous corporate giant, so used to always getting its way.
Saiontz and Kirk, a personal injury law firm in Baltimore, Maryland, clearly identifies these cancers as actionable among their many potential clients: “As a result of Monsanto’s failure to adequately warn about the potential cancer risk, financial compensation may be available through a Roundup lawsuit for individuals diagnosed with: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Leukemia, and other cancers. This is what they have to say:
Studies have linked the general use of pesticides and herbicides to an increased risk of lymphatic cancer, which attacks the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a key part of the immune system and helps carry nutrients to cells. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the most common type of lymphatic cancer, or lymphoma.
Symptoms of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma from Roundup exposure may include:
- Swollen Lymph Notes (in Neck, Armpits or Groin)
- Abdominal or Chest Pain
- Trouble Breathing or Coughing
- Fever and Night Sweats
- Sudden Weight Loss
A review published by the World Health Organization’s IARC in May 2015 in The Lancet Oncology looked at studies on humans and mice exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other popular weed killers. Three human studies were included in the review, including one study in the U.S. in 2003, one in Canada in 2001, and one in Sweden in 2008. All three appear to suggest that there may be an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from Roundup or glyphosate exposure among humans. As a result the WHO declared in 2015 that Roundup is a probably carcinogen.
In addition, glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers and other studies IARC investigated indicated that it caused DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, as well as in human and animal cells in the womb.
In animal tests, IARC researchers found that mice exposed to glyphosate developed skin tumors, renal tubule carcinoma, as well as pancreatic islet-cell adenoma.
Glyphosphate is not only in Roundup! Monsanto lost patent protection on glyphosate in 2000, and a large number of herbicides now use it as an active ingredient, including OrthoGroundclear, KleenUp, Aquamaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp ,Touchdown, Total Traxion, Vector, and Vantage Plus Max II.
Saiontz and Kirk sum it up quite succinctly and clearly in their medical background for their legal efforts for individuals suffering from Roundup and Glyphosphate poisoning and related cancers:
Monsanto has capitalized on glyphosate by genetically engineering glyphosate-resistant crops, known as “Roundup Ready”. However, weeds also become resistant over time, meaning farmers need to use more and more glyphosate to have the same effect, thus constantly increasing their exposure.
For years concerns have existed about a risk of cancer from herbicides and weed killers, specifically non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, recent reports have suggested that many cancers suffered by agricultural workers may have been caused by side effects of Roundup exposure.
I personally am not a huge fan of Huffington Post when it comes to pure consumer protection journalism, but their recent article (December 16, 2016) reported on what the EPA is doing and what they are not doing about Roundup is so excellent and so revealing that I will here quote a large section of it because it illuminates what is really going on as background.
There are so many scoffers, doubters, and tire kickers in America, on this and related issues, like GMOs, aspartame, and the entire chemical feast, that I am honored to share with you such a thorough and incisive litany of truth, especially if you can read between the lines of the “corporatese” language of those scientists who work for Monsanto and other firms of that ilk who are so anxious to lend the manipulatable credentials to please their corporate sponsors. (Anyone can hire a dishwasher or a whore or a private detective, but hiring toxicologists and oncologists to say what you want them to say is only slightly more complex!).
This long quote that follows is from an article is by Carey Gillam, a “veteran journalist and research director for U.S. Right to Know.”
The meetings brought together a roster of scientists with expertise in epidemiology, toxicology and related expertise to advise the EPA on whether or not the agency has properly determined that the weight of evidence indicates glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic” to humans. The determination runs counter to the classification made in March 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer….that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”
The EPA’s determination is crucial on many fronts: Monsanto is currently defending itself against more than three dozen lawsuits claiming glyphosate-based Roundup gave people non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of blood cancer; both the EPA and the European Union are assessing re-registrations of glyphosate to determine if limits should be placed on the chemical; and Monsanto is attempting a $66 billion merger with German-based Bayer.
But while the EPA may have hoped for resounding support from the Scientific Advisory Panel it assembled, from the outset of the meetings on Tuesday, concerns were raised by some of the experts about the quality of the EPA’s analysis…that the EPA was violating its own guidelines in discounting data from various studies that show positive associations between glyphosate and cancer. Several of the SAP members questioned why the EPA excluded some data that showed statistical significance, and wrote off some of the positive findings to mere chance.
Monique Perron, a scientist in the Health Effects Division of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, explained that “professional judgment” played a role in looking at the “weight of evidence” from various studies. The EPA looked at both published studies as well as unpublished studies conducted by industry players like Monsanto, according to Perron. The IARC review focused on published, peer-reviewed research. The German BfR, which is part of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany, advised EFSA and drafted the report that EFSA issued in November 2015 that declared glyphosate was “unlikely to be carcinogenic.” That report has been the subject of some controversy because the BfR relied on the advice of the Glyphosate Task Force, the consortium of chemical companies that includes Monsanto, when it did its evaluation.
The EPA did not invite either BfR or European Food Safety Authority to travel to the United States to deliver the support for glyphosate safety, according to Steven Knott, the EPA official who oversaw the meeting logistics. The foreign scientists simply asked for the opportunity to appear, he said. Who invited them and/or arranged for their travel raised some eyebrows among onlookers.
Another element of the meetings that did more than raise a few eyebrows was the devotion of time given to industry presenters supportive of glyphosate versus representatives from non-profits or others who urged regulators to rein in use of glyphosate.
Monsanto representatives were granted roughly 3-1/2 hours on Wednesday to make the case for glyphosate safety, and several other pro-glyphosate industry players were granted additional time as well. In comparison, most critics of glyphosate had comment periods that ranged from 5-15 minutes. Knott said speaking allotments were assigned based on how much time commentators asked for, but some glyphosate opponents said they were told they could not have more than a few minutes.
Monsanto used its time to present a defense of glyphosate’s value to agriculture, to offer detailed explanations for why the IARC analysis was flawed, and to explain why the company believes a host of data points found in various studies should be discounted, and/or are not relevant. Company representatives also argued that glyphosate residues found in numerous urine tests were nothing to worry about, and actually helped show that the chemical does not bio-accumulate in the human body. They also said reports of glyphosate residues found in human breast milk were “implausible.”
Groups concerned about glyphosate argued to the panel that the EPA was favoring industry studies over published literature, which is generally considered more authoritative, and was using flimsy protocols to shrug off statistical significance found in several studies.
Many of the participants from both sides of the debate spoke of a need for research on the safety of formulated products that have glyphosate as the active ingredient. The EPA evaluates only glyphosate and not the actual formulation in which it is applied, even though the formulations are increasingly being feared to be more potentially dangerous to human health than the active ingredient alone.
One particularly interesting story line that played out this week was the saga of Dr. Peter Infante, a nationally recognized epidemiologist who initially was invited and confirmed by EPA as one of the agency’s scientific advisory panel members for the glyphosate meetings. The meetings were slated for Oct. 18-21 but CropLife America, which represents the interests of Monsanto and other agribusinesses, sent a letter to the EPA on Oct. 12 calling for Infante to be completely disqualified, saying he had “patent bias.” Infante appeared to have impeccable credentials, having spent decades working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health specializing in the determination of cancer risks associated with toxic substances. But CropLife insisted Infante be thrown off the panel. One of its reasons: Infante would give more weight to independent research than the industry’s own research.
The EPA did as the industry asked, but the ousting did not sit well with Infante, who had spent long hours studying the data EPA sent the panel members in advance. In part to defend his reputation, and also to offer his analysis, a somewhat disgruntled Infante showed up at the EPA meetings anyway, telling the SAP members there is “impressive evidence” of glyphosate ties to NHL that should not be ignored.
“There is clearly the evidence for the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma related to glyphosate exposure,” Infante said in an interview after he addressed the panel. “Is it conclusive? No, I don’t think so. But I think that EPA is concluding that there is no evidence. And that’s exactly wrong, according to their own criteria.” There is enough data to classify glyphosate as having “limited” evidence of carcinogenicity in humans,” Infante said.
By the time the singing broke out, the room seemed ready for the distraction. The Rev. Billy Talen, who leads a group of self-proclaimed “earth-loving urban activists” that frequently use performance as protest, took his turn at the microphone. Talen told the SAP members of his group’s concern about glyphosate applications made on playgrounds around the country and the danger this could pose to children. “We’re very aware of the cancers that come from, we believe, from glyphosates,” he told the group.
Shortly after, Talen was warned his five minutes were up, and he and a small number of his followers started singing: “Monsanto is the devil. No glyphosate. Hey.”