Monsanto's Roundup to Get Cancer Label

glyphosate toxicity

Story at-a-glance -

  • California regulators stated that glyphosate will appear on the state’s list of cancerous chemicals beginning July 7, 2017
  • This means new labels may be appearing within the next year in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers
  • An increasing number of lawsuits are popping up across the U.S., alleging Monsanto’s Roundup caused cancer and the company engaged in fraudulent activity and deceptive advertising of its weed killer

By Dr. Mercola

California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.

Monsanto filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When the agency didn’t give in, Monsanto took it a step further and filed a lawsuit against OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a Fresno, California, superior court judge ruled on their behalf in February 2017.

California regulators stated that glyphosate will appear on the state’s list of cancerous chemicals beginning July 7, 2017,1 which means new labels may be appearing within the next year in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers, including Ortho Groundclear, KleenUp, AquaMaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp, Touchdown Total, Traxion, Vector and Vantage Plus Max II, and others.2

California’s Move Follows IARC’s 2015 Cancer Determination

The final say on whether Roundup will get a cancer warning label is still up in the air for now, as Monsanto has filed yet another appeal in an attempt to block the labeling. California’s decision to add the chemical to its Prop 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals came in response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 determination that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen."

Monsanto continues to contest the classification, even as it’s become clear that they may have worked with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to stop glyphosate investigations.

Email correspondence showed Jess Rowland, who at the time was the EPA's deputy division director of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto's behalf.

In an email, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Dan Jenkins recounts a conversation he'd had with Rowland, in which Rowland said, "If I can kill this I should get a medal,”3 referring to the ATSDR investigation, which did not end up occurring.

Roundup Cancer Lawsuits Popping up All Over the US

Meanwhile, more than 800 people with cancer are suing Monsanto over claims the glyphosate-based herbicide made them ill — and Monsanto did little to warn the public, despite knowing cancer risks existed.4,5 Glyphosate is said to work by inhibiting only a single enzyme not found in people or pets to kill unwanted plants, but a team of environmental attorneys including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have accused Monsanto of false advertising in this regard. In addition, Bloomberg reported:6

“The attorneys have spent the last several months poring over hundreds of confidential documents they say show that the company actively worked to downplay the cancer risk for glyphosate. Since March [2017], the lawyers have successfully unsealed a trove of emails, letters and studies intended to inject doubt into the process by which Roundup earned its Environmental Protection Agency approval.

They suggest that Monsanto’s scientists ghost-wrote studies that cleared glyphosate of its cancer-causing potential; that the company tried to enlist EPA staff to shut down an investigation into the herbicide; and that officials hired a scientist in 1985 to persuade EPA regulators to change its decision on its cancer classification for glyphosate.”

In addition to the glyphosate/cancer lawsuits, plaintiffs from California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin are also suing Monsanto over claims that Roundup disrupts the gut microbiome.7

In regard to the claim that Roundup targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets, six consumers from across the U.S. have filed a complaint against Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro (the exclusive marketer of Roundup) alleging that the statement is false and deceptive, as the enzyme is, in fact, found in the gut bacteria of people and pets.

Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, and that's the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals. Beyond Pesticides explained:8

“Because glyphosate disrupts a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants — but not animals — many have assumed that it does not harm humans. However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90 percent of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern — and a major contributor to disease.”

New, More Toxic Herbicide Already Led to Farmer’s Death

As an increasing number of weeds develop resistance to glyphosate, biotech giants are working on a number of new genetically engineered (GE) crops that are "stacked" with a number of GE traits that, for instance, make the crops resistant to multiple pesticides.

Monsanto's new GE Roundup Ready Xtend soybean, for instance, is not only resistant to Roundup but to the toxic herbicide dicamba, which is prone to drifting. The U.S. EPA approved Monsanto’s new weedkiller, XtendiMax, which goes along with its Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — GE plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba, in November 2016.

However, Monsanto sold dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before the herbicide designed to go with them (which is supposedly less prone to drifting) had gotten federal approval. In 2016, when farmers sprayed their new GE crops with older, illegal formulas of dicamba, and it drifted over onto their neighbors' non-dicamba-resistant crops, devastating crop damage was reported in 10 states.9

In November 2016, a dispute over dicamba drift turned deadly, when Arkansas soybean and cotton farmer Mike Wallace was allegedly fatally shot by another farmer. “The damaged crops have pitted farmer against farmer and strained relationships in the region, especially in light of the fact that insurance companies won’t compensate farmers for losses caused by wrongful or ‘off label’ herbicide applications due to drift,” Modern Farmer reported.10

Dicamba damage was also noted in 200,000 acres of soybeans in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri in the summer of 2016, along with 42,000 acres of peaches, watermelons, alfalfa and other crops in Missouri alone.

As of June 2017, Arkansas has received more than 400 complaints from farmers whose crops were damaged by dicamba drifting over from neighboring farms.11 In response, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to pass an emergency temporary ban on spraying the weedkiller, whose use has been increasing as more farmers plant dicamba-tolerant crops.

Monsanto ‘Troubled’ Over Arkansas Ban

This year’s complaints are thought to be related to the newer, supposedly less volatile form of dicamba, which is still causing damage to nearby crops.12 Arkansas grower Tom Burnham reported to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that dicamba has damaged his 7,500 acres of soybean crops. He estimates that about half of the region’s dicamba-resistant crops were planted solely by farmers hoping to prevent the damage they suffered last year among their non-resistant crops.

“Last year I didn’t have any issues,” he said. “This year it’s an epidemic. These weren’t what I call cowboys using the old versions of dicamba. These were people using the right stuff the right way.” In a letter to the state plant board, he continued, “I feel that the need to plant a technology to protect your crop from off-target movement is tantamount to extortion.”13

In response to Arkansas’ proposed temporary ban on dicamba spraying, Monsanto said it was “troubled” and that the move would prevent farmers from having access to all available weed-control options.14

Meanwhile, dicamba-resistant weeds have already sprouted in Kansas and Nebraska, raising serious doubts that piling more pesticides on crops will help farmers. “ … [P]iling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution — it's a losing strategy,” Nathan Donley, environmental health scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch.15

To protect not only the people on Earth now but also those that will make up future generations, it’s important that the widespread environmental contamination caused by chemicals like dicamba and glyphosate is not allowed to continue unchecked. As for the Arkansas ban, it must be approved by the Arkansas governor and state legislative council before being passed.16

How Much Glyphosate Is in Your Body?

Laboratory testing commissioned by the organizations Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse revealed that glyphosate is now showing up virtually everywhere. The analysis revealed glyphosate in levels of 76 μg/L to 166 μg/L in women's breast milk. As reported by The Detox Project, this is 760 to 1,600 times higher than the EU-permitted level in drinking water (although it's lower than the U.S. maximum contaminant level for glyphosate, which is 700 μg/L.).17

This dose of glyphosate in breast-fed babies' every meal is only the beginning. An in vitro study designed to simulate human exposures also found that glyphosate crosses the placental barrier. In the study, 15 percent of the administered glyphosate reached the fetal compartment.18 Glyphosate has also been detected in a number of popular foods, including oatmeal, coffee creamer, eggs and cereal such as Cheerios.

If you’d like to know your personal glyphosate levels, you can now find out, while also participating in a worldwide study on environmental glyphosate exposures. The Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.

Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure. We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study.

In the meantime, eating organic as much as possible and investing in a good water filtration system for your home are among the best ways to lower your exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides. In the case of glyphosate, it’s also wise to avoid desiccated crops like wheat and oats.

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