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Last week, three things happened. Bayer, who acquired Monsanto last year for $63 billion, suffered another blow when a French court determined that their weed killer Lasso had caused neurological issues in a farmer.
A day later, the company agreed to comply with court-ordered mediation with a plaintiff who claims that another of its products, Roundup, caused her non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the midst of all this, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture criticized Vietnam for banning the import of herbicides containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
Let’s take a look at the latest in the Bayer/Monsanto story as well as the comments made by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Lasso Herbicide: Monsanto Troubles Abroad
The first story comes from France, where a farmer named Paul Francois finally won a lawsuit claiming that Monsanto’s herbicide Lasso had caused his illness. Mr. Francois has been battling the agricultural behemoth for over a decade; the company’s legal team has kept the case trapped in a quagmire of appeals and litigation. A simple farmer, Francois suffered neurological damage in 2004 after accidentally inhaling fumes from the weed killer.
What’s interesting here is just how long it took for this farmer to receive justice. Lasso was banned in France in 2007 due to safety concerns, and Mr. Francois had already won his case at trial twice – in 2012 and again in 2015 – before France’s appellate court ruled in his favor last week. Francois is now 55 and has been battling with Monsanto for over 20% of his life.
Although Lasso does not contain glyphosate, the case highlights yet another failure by the company to warn consumers about the dangers of their products. Perhaps worse is the way in which Monsanto continues to deny responsibility to the bitter end. But the neurological symptoms suffered by Mr. Francois, including memory loss, headaches, and fainting, are not the only purported risks of the herbicide.
Lasso uses a chemical called alachlor, which has been shown in studies to cause tumors in vivo. There were also strong associations between alachlor and laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx). The use of alachlor is banned in the European Union.1
Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit: The Collapse of a Giant
Glyphosate is the most widely-used herbicide on the planet. More than 300 million pounds of glyphosate are used every year on U.S. farms alone.
Glyphosate strips plants and soil of nutrients, and in the past 40 years, tens of millions of acres have been saturated and destroyed by glyphosate and Roundup. Since its introduction in 1974, over 9 million tons of Roundup have been sprayed on fields worldwide.
Everything from endocrine disruption and obesity to diabetes and heart disease – and, of course, cancer – has a scientific tie-in to glyphosate exposure. Studies have linked glyphosate to cancer, kidney failure, chromosomal damage, and immune system damage. And when combined, the chemicals found in Roundup are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone. What’s worse, glyphosate is everywhere.
U.S. Geological Survey data shows that glyphosate is present in more than half of all surface waters, soil, and sediment.
Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), its degradation product, is even more commonly detected, showing up in more than 80% of wastewater samples collected at municipal treatment plants. Monsanto itself admits that some glyphosate remains on and in food crops like canola, cotton, and corn, meaning we’re consuming unknown amounts of glyphosate regularly.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has presided over the first 2 cases, which awarded the plaintiffs $289 million and $80.2 million, respectively. The first award was later reduced to $78 million. Judge Chhabria had originally planned to use 3 cases as bellwether cases, meaning they would be used for trying or settling future cases.
After the most recent trial, Judge Chhabria ordered Bayer to mediation with the next plaintiff and postponed the original trial date. On Friday, Bayer said it would comply with the ordered mediation, signaling a significant shift in the way future cases will be handled. There are currently thousands of lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto claiming that Roundup causes cancer and that the company deliberately withheld that information from consumers.
Since the first verdict, Bayer has lost billions of dollars in market value. Trading at $31.67 a share in June 2018, Bayer’s shares have dropped to $17.40 as of yesterday. The company has lost $50 billion in market capitalization since its $69 billion acquisition of Monsanto on June 7th of last year.2
Despite overwhelming evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic (and that Roundup is 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone), Bayer continues to maintain that the science supports their claims that Roundup is safe.
Yet evidence presented in court last month showed that the company attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion regarding the safety of their products.
Sonny Perdue: The FDA and Corporate Interests
Despite all of this, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is standing beside the company in their claims that glyphosate is safe. Last week, Vietnam banned the import of herbicides containing glyphosate, a move stemming from the Federal Court ruling that the chemical does cause cancer.3
“As soon as we heard the second U.S. trial’s verdict that glyphosate is related to cancer, we have issued a document to ban new herbicide imports containing the active ingredient. The removal of this substance from the list of usable herbicides in Vietnam will also be issued in the near future,” daily newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) quoted the department’s head Hoang Trung as saying.4
On Thursday, Secretary Perdue spoke out against the decision, saying that it would have “devastating impacts on global agricultural production.” A former Georgia governor and veterinarian, Perdue was approved as secretary in early 2017… and has deep ties with the agricultural industry.
A former fertilizer salesman, he’s received well over $300,000 in campaign donations from the agricultural industry. Perdue has since supported severely under-qualified candidates for influential positions within the government’s agricultural oversight department.
According to Reuters, Bayer released a statement saying:
The overwhelming weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide … support the safety of glyphosate-based herbicide products.”
This reminds me of the mantra chanted by the CDC and vaccine manufacturers alike that the MMR vaccine is “safe and effective.” Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josheph Goebbels once said:
A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”
With billions of dollars at stake, it’s no wonder these companies repeat their lies at every opportunity.
But we should be extremely concerned at the comments by Perdue. The United States Department of Agriculture, which the secretary oversees, has a very clear mission statement.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”5
And yet the head of the FDA seems completely uninterested in protecting public health or even entertaining the idea that the world’s leading herbicide may be carcinogenic. We’ve talked before about the ways that pharmaceutical and agricultural biotech corporations pump millions of dollars into lobbying campaigns, influencing the appointment of regulatory officials and rewarding leaders who further their agenda.
The FDA is a virtual “revolving door” for those with strong ties to the business community. In fact, the entire department of Health and Human Services seems to be bought and paid for by companies like Bayer, Merck, and Pfizer. Rather than condemning Vietnam’s recent move to protect its citizens, shouldn’t Mr. Perdue be pushing for more transparency from Bayer?
What Can We Do? 4 Ways to Take Action!
While completely avoiding glyphosate exposure would be a massive challenge, there are several steps you can take to minimize your exposure.
#1. Avoiding GMOs, conventionally-grown grains, vaccines, and gelatin is a great first step. All of these are known sources of glyphosate.
#2. You can also be proactive by investing in a high-quality water filtration system and shopping for products labeled “certified organic” or “certified glyphosate-free.” We recommend Paul Barattiero’s echoH2 hydrogen water system.
#3. But even these labels don’t guarantee that your products are totally free of glyphosate. It’s imperative that you adopt a regular detoxification program that works for you. Our bodies are designed to protect us from harmful toxins, and there are several ways to kick start your body’s natural detoxification system.
#4. Finally, be vocal with your local representatives. Demand better safety and research standards, and that glyphosate be banned immediately. Bayer is a massive company worth billions of dollars, but we are strong when we stand together. Make your voice heard. We’ll keep you updated with everything you need to know as this story continues to unfold.