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This Evil Corporation Bullies Scientists to Cover Up Toxicity

roundup herbicide toxicity

Story at-a-glance -

  • Thousands of people across the U.S. have filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, caused them to develop cancer
  • The first case — that of DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who alleges Roundup caused his terminal cancer — is already in court
  • Johnson’s lawyer presented internal emails during the trial that suggest Monsanto “fought science” and went “out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers” who suggested Roundup is dangerous
  • The case is set to act as a bellwether for the thousands of cases (approximately 5,000 as of July 2018) waiting to be heard

By Dr. Mercola

Thousands of people across the U.S. have now filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, caused them to develop cancer. A cluster of more than 400 lawsuits from farmers, landscapers and others claiming Roundup caused Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cell cancer, were consolidated before a federal judge, and Monsanto tried to get the cases dismissed.

The judge, however, recently ruled they will be allowed to proceed,1 and the first case — that of DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who alleges Roundup caused his terminal cancer — is already in court. Monsanto has continued to maintain that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer and is one of the safest herbicides on the planet, even as evidence stacks up against them.

In the first landmark trial, attorneys even alleged that Monsanto (which was taken over by Bayer in June 2018) has resorted to bullying independent researchers and rejected critical warnings about their toxic products.

Glyphosate’s Toxic History

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, to be a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A). This determination was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer can cause Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic to humans, but internal documents have revealed the agency has colluded with Monsanto to protect the company’s interests.

California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) also announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate 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 they 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.

Roundup Cancer Battle: Monsanto Bullies Scientists

Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner presented internal emails during the trial that suggest Monsanto “fought science” and went “out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers.”2 In one of the emails, Monsanto product protection lead Donna Farmer asked “How do we combat this?” in response to a negative study about exposure to glyphosate. She also wrote, “You cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer.”

As The Guardian reported, Wisner also revealed Monsanto documents with plans to “orchestrate outcry” prior to the IARC glyphosate classification, along with decades-old emails in which a genotoxicity expert warned of potential human health risks and advised further research.

Monsanto officials, upon seeing the concerns, considered finding a new expert and releasing a press release to state Roundup was safe. “Wisner also read documents that he said showed how Monsanto strategized plans to ‘ghostwrite’ favorable research,” The Guardian continued.3

Previously court-ordered unsealed documents have revealed that Monsanto scientists ghost-wrote studies to clear glyphosate’s name and even hired a scientist to persuade the EPA to change its cancer classification decision on the chemical.4 Johnson, a father of three, was diagnosed with a type of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma called mycosis fungoides in August 2014, and has recently been given months to live.

He claims he used Roundup 20 to 40 times per year while working as a groundskeeper for the Benicia school district in California from 2012 through late 2015.5 His attorneys showed photos of skin lesions and rashes Johnson developed after exposure to the chemical. The case is set to act as a bellwether for the thousands of cases (approximately 5,000 as of July 20186) waiting to be heard.

Timothy Litzenburg, one of Johnson’s lawyers, said in an interview with The Guardian that Johnson is "incredibly brave, and, 'Whatever happens … his sons will get to know that their dad was brave enough to go up against Monsanto completely alone, and first, before he died,'" adding, “so much of what Monsanto has worked to keep secret is coming out.”7 A second case, this one in St. Louis, is scheduled to go to trial in October.8

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Monsanto Attacks IARC in Attempt to Tarnish Credibility

In addition to bullying independent scientists, Monsanto will even take on establishments like IARC, should they come to unfavorable conclusions about glyphosate like IARC did. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Monsanto and the American Chemistry Council have “launched a full-throttle attack on the international scientific body.” Most recently, UCS stated:9

“A rider [was added to] the House version of the HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] appropriations bill that would prevent the National Institutes of Health from lending any financial support to IARC unless it agrees to push for reforms at IARC that have been called for by [industry ally U.S. Rep.] Lamar Smith and the House Science Committee at the bequest of the chemical industry.”

Since 2016, Monsanto has lobbied to strip the IARC of its U.S. funding. What’s more, in January 2017, the American Chemistry Council (of which Monsanto is a member) formed a front group called Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research (CAPHR),10 the express purpose of which is to discredit the IARC and seek to reform the IARC Monographs Program, which evaluates and determines the carcinogenicity of chemicals.11 IARC scientists have also been targeted. UCS noted:12

“The conservative advocacy group and known FOIA abusers, Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E and E Legal) filed a series of open record requests to IARC panelists asking for deliberative documents about the glyphosate monograph, to which IARC has told scientists not to release the documents because IARC is the owner of those materials, seeking to defend panelists’ right to debate evidence openly and critically which does not need to be subject to public scrutiny.”

Monsanto went so far as to demand IARC members turn over documents related to glyphosate while calling the IARC findings “junk science.”13 It's well worth noting that the IARC's scientists are considered elite independent experts, culled from well-respected institutions all over the world.

Smith has even sent letters to IARC’s director questioning the glyphosate work group’s integrity. Some of the IARC members who worked on the glyphosate findings say they feel “intimidated” by the backlash, but stated they would not be backing down.14 UCS is calling for IARC to be protected across the board, which includes its access to funding.

“This most recent attempt to use the appropriations process to cut funding to this scientific body is a glaring example of the way in which the disinformation playbook is employed in sometimes more subtle ways that can have dramatic impacts. Funding of our agencies should not be bogged down by ideological and political riders that can have dramatic impacts on science-based policymaking and the future of international science institutions.

The language requiring NIH to restrict IARC funding if certain terms aren’t met should be stripped from the HHS funding bill and IARC should continue to receive US funding to help support all of its important work reviewing the cancer risk of environmental contaminants to inform safety thresholds across the globe.”15

Monsanto Goes After Reporters, Academic Journals Too

Former Reuters reporter Carey Gillam has written a revealing book on Monsanto’s long-term and continuing corruption of science, “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science.” Gillam also told Corporate Crime Reporter that Monsanto would bully journalists who dared to go against the “corporate narrative.”

“Monsanto has made a concerted effort to train reporters on how to report on the industry,” she said. “They are holding boot camps and bringing in these supposedly independent professors and others to train these reporters and others how to think about the science and the issues. They are trying to influence press coverage.”16 In addition, she describes the company’s ongoing manipulation of science and the press, and the revolving door that keeps Monsanto in control of government regulations.

UCS likened Monsanto’s influence and attempts to discredit science and influence media on the health risks of glyphosate to the sugar industry’s attempts to discredit the science surrounding sugar’s health risks, particularly a recommendation from WHO to limit daily calorie intake from added sugars to 10 percent. Much like Monsanto, the Sugar Association threatened to get U.S. funding to WHO suspended and demanded unfavorable scientific reports be buried.

“Unfortunately, this effort was effective in limiting the report’s influence on health policy,” UCS noted,17 and we must not let the same happen with glyphosate. Monsanto also manipulates scientific research. One study in question was conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini. The lifetime feeding study, published in 2012, revealed numerous shocking problems in rats fed GMO corn, including massive tumors and early death. Rats given glyphosate in their drinking water also developed tumors.

The following year, the publisher retracted the study saying it “did not meet scientific standards,” even though a long and careful investigation found no errors or misrepresentation of data. Interestingly enough, in the time between the publication of the study and its retraction, the journal had created a new position — associate editor for biotechnology, a position that was filled by a former Monsanto employee. The editor of the journal that retracted the study was also reportedly paid by Monsanto.

Health Risks of Glyphosate Continue to Grow

Courts will soon rule whether there’s enough evidence to rule that Roundup caused cancer in certain individuals. However, there’s already growing evidence that this chemical causes untold amounts of harm. In a pilot study, the highly respected Ramazzini Institute in Italy revealed that daily ingestion of glyphosate at the acceptable daily dietary exposure level set by the EPA alters sexual development in rats, produces changes in the intestinal microbiome and exhibits genotoxic effects.18

Tests conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), published in 2018, also revealed the Roundup formula is far more toxic than glyphosate alone. According to the NTP's summary of the results, glyphosate formulations significantly alter the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes.19 It’s also been found that glyphosate may affect fertility in humans.

In 2014, a report from the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) highlighted what appears to be the perfect storm for an "infertility time bomb," courtesy of glyphosate.20 In December 2013, meanwhile, a study revealed that Roundup exposure induced cell death in Sertoli cells in prepubertal rat testis.21 Sertoli cells are required for male sexual development, including maintaining the health of sperm cells. The exposure was a low dose (36 ppm), which is well within the EPA’s food safety levels.

It’s unknown what health risks will eventually be revealed from eating food contaminated with low levels of glyphosate, but it’s likely we’ll first see the damages incurred by those exposed to larger quantities, like Johnson via his groundskeeping work.

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, as well as not using such chemicals around your home or garden. In the case of glyphosate, it’s also wise to avoid desiccated crops like wheat and oats.