It has not been a good week for Monsanto.
Last Monday, jurors in San Francisco voted in favor of DeWayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper who claimed that using Roundup, the company's popular herbicide, led to his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson was awarded $289 million dollars in total damages. It’s believed that Monsanto will follow up with an appeal.
Roundup’s active ingredient is the controversial chemical, glyphosate. It has been hotly debated by industries, health organizations and farmers alike.
Despite countless claims and a bevy of lawsuits against Roundup, Monsanto will continue to “vigorously defend their product,” according to vice president Scott Partridge.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in a range of popular weed killers, including Roundup. It works by blocking an essential plant enzyme that aids in the growth of certain proteins. According to the EPA, glyphosate is in over 750 weed killers and related products. It remains one of the most widely used herbicides in the industry.
While it is currently considered “safe” under normal use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, other international institutes classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, or a cancer-causing chemical.
What kind of research has been done on glyphosate?
Glyphosate is continually analyzed and researched, due to rising health concerns. Recently, the EPA issued a draft risk assessment that determined the chemical is not carcinogenic for humans or other forms of life. Similarly, the FDA conducted multiple tests of glyphosate residues. From 2016 to 2017, preliminary tests were conducted and no violations were found.
However, other cases against glyphosate continue to stack up. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a part of the World Health Organization) concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Two years later, California formally recognized glyphosate as a carcinogen.
Most recently, the Environmental Working Group released a report finding trace amounts of glyphosate in Cheerios, Quaker Oats and other breakfast foods.
However, despite numerous claims and reports, the United States and many European countries continue to allow the use of glyphosate. According to the BBC, France intends to ban the use of glyphosate by 2020.
What does this mean for the future of the industry?
Farmers and industry experts warn that banning glyphosate could cripple an agricultural production industry that relies heavily on glyphosate. It is an integral part of the industry, used by thousands of farmers on a daily basis, and it has been for over 30 years.
Whether glyphosate is carcinogenic or not, there are thousands of cases like Johnson’s waiting to be put in motion. Johnson’s $289 million dollar win could start a domino effect that spells doom for the company.
How do you feel about the ruling? Do you use Roundup for farming, or have you switched to an eco-friendly product? Let us know.