Saturday, May 7, 2016
What killed Jack McCall? A California farmer dies and a case against Monsanto takes root
Questions about what triggered the farmer’s cancer are part of what some legal experts see as a potential landmark legal claim against Monsanto
EXCERPT: Attorney Brent Wisner, who is representing the McCall family, said he is confident in the strength of the evidence against Monsanto. “It’s going to be a fairly large litigation when it’s all said and done. We’re confident we’ll be able to show that Monsanto controlled research and suppressed science,” he said.
What killed Jack McCall? A California farmer dies and a case against Monsanto takes root
Huffington Post, 6 May 2016
[links to sources at the URL above]
Standing on the ridge overlooking her central California farm, new widow Teri McCall sees her husband Jack nearly everywhere. There, atop the highest hill, is where the couple married in 1975- two self-described “hippies’ who knew more about how to surf than farm. And over there, surrounded by the lemon, avocado and orange trees Jack planted, sits the 800-square-foot house the young Vietnam veteran built for his bride and a family that grew to include two sons and a daughter. Solar panels Jack set up in a sun-drenched stretch of grass power the farm’s irrigation system.
And down there, clasped in the cusp of the velvet green valley sits the century-old farmhouse Jack and Teri eventually made their permanent home. Jack installed a stained glass window featuring a heart and flowers over the front door.
“Literally hundreds of times a day, something reminds me of him,” McCall says, as she and a visitor strolled through the orchards on a recent sunny spring morning. “That’s part of why it’s so hard to believe... I can never see him again.”
Anthony ‘Jack’ McCall, 69, died after a painful and perplexing battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The loss is certain, fixed forever into his family’s heartbreak. But questions about why and how he was stricken - a man who never smoked, stayed fit and had no history of cancer in his family - are part of what some legal experts see as a potential landmark legal claim against one of the world’s largest agrichemical companies, Monsanto Co.
McCall shunned pesticide use on his farm, except for the herbicide called Roundup - marketed by Monsanto as having extremely low toxicity. He used Roundup regularly, spraying it himself around the farm to drive back worrisome weeds. He even recommended Roundup to friends, telling them it was supposed to be much safer than alternatives on the market, and touting its effectiveness.
But now in his death, McCall is one of several plaintiffs in more than a dozen lawsuits that claim the active ingredient in Roundup - a chemical called glyphosate - gave them cancer, and that Monsanto has long known glyphosate poses “significant risks to human health, including a risk of causing cancer.”
The lawsuits, brought by plaintiffs in California, Florida, Missouri, Delaware, Hawaii, and elsewhere over the last several months, claim Monsanto has hidden evidence, and manipulated regulators and the public into believing in the safety of glyphosate, which annually brings in about $5 billion, or a third of total sales, for the agribusiness giant. Like McCall, many farmed, or worked in agricultural jobs in which they regularly were using or exposed to glyphosate.
The claims come at a critical time for Monsanto and its signature product as regulators in the United States and other countries evaluate whether or not to continue to allow glyphosate herbicides. Last year the World Health Organization’s cancer experts classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. That team, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), said glyphosate shows a “positive association” for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The outcomes of the legal battle and the regulatory reviews could have broad implications. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide on the planet, sprayed on fields for row crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as a variety of fruits, nuts and vegetable crops such as almonds, apples, cherries and oranges.
That ubiquitous role played by glyphosate means the litigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers say, marks the beginning of a potential wave of legal actions against Monsanto. Teams of attorneys have been criss-crossing the country lining up potential plaintiffs who they say will likely number in the hundreds and possibly thousands. It’s a time-tested practice by plaintiffs’ attorneys who have brought similar mass actions in the past against tobacco, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
“Monsanto has deliberately concealed or suppressed information about the dangers of its product,” said environmental and chemical pollution attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is assisting in litigating glyphosate cases. “This is big. It’s on every farm in the world.”
Kennedy predicts glyphosate liability litigation will become as widespread as has been decades of litigation over asbestos, which is seen in legal circles as the longest-running mass tort action in U.S. history. Asbestos was used for years as a safe and effective flame retardant in the construction industry but has been tied to lung diseases and cancers, and spawned hundreds of millions of dollars in legal claims.
The glyphosate litigation partly mirrors courtroom battles Monsanto has been fighting for years involving the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs it once manufactured. Plaintiffs in those cases also claim PCBs caused them to fall ill while Monsanto hid the risks. Monsanto claims plaintiffs cannot definitively link illnesses to PCB exposure.
AMONG THE SAFEST OPTIONS
Patented by Monsanto and commercialized in 1974, glyphosate herbicide has long been considered among the safest pesticide options on the market. The weed-killer came off patent in 2000 and is now used in more than 700 products around the world, beloved by farmers, homeowners, and groundskeepers. The chemical is the world’s most widely used herbicide with an estimated 1.8 billion pounds applied in 2014, up 12-fold from 1994, according to recently published research.
But as use has grown, concerns about safety have also mounted. Residues have been documented by public and private researchers in waterways, air, food and in human bodily fluids. Several scientific studies tied the chemical to cancers and other health problems before the March 2015 classification by IARC.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in the glyphosate cases say that among the evidence that glyphosate’s toxicity has long been known is an EPA memo detailing how glyphosate was classified by agency scientists as a possible human carcinogen in 1985 before classified in 1991 as a having “evidence of non-carcinogenicity” for humans. The classification was changed despite the fact that some peer review members did not concur. The lawsuits also cite evidence of fraud at laboratories used by Monsanto to perform toxicology studies of glyphosate, and point to fraud convictions of executives at those labs.
St. Louis-based Monsanto, a global agrichemical and seed powerhouse, cites its own evidence to counter both the validity of the allegations in the lawsuits, as well as the IARC findings. Last year, the company hired a team of experts to review the safety of glyphosate, and said that team found no cancer links.
“Comprehensive long-term toxicological studies repeated over the last 30 years have time and again demonstrated that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer risk in humans,” Monsanto states on its website. ‘Regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world have reviewed numerous long-term/carcinogenicity and genotoxicity studies and agree that there is no evidence that glyphosate... causes cancer, even at very high doses.”
Monsanto attorneys have been seeking to dismiss and/or delay several cases thus far filed, asserting that federal law and approvals by the Environmental Protection Agency for labels on Roundup herbicide products protect Monsanto from the claims in the lawsuits. In recent arguments in U.S. District Court in Northern California, for example, lawyers for Monsanto argued that “EPA repeatedly has concluded that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.” But in April a federal judge in California ruled that Monsanto was not protected from liability by the EPA registration and approved labels.
In a Missouri case that Monsanto also was unable to get dismissed, discovery is starting, and plaintiffs’ lawyers are eagerly awaiting what they hope will be a treasure trove of evidence for their clients.
The legal claims come at the same time that European and U.S. regulators are conducting their own assessments of the safety of glyphosate and considering restrictions, processes that have become fraught with infighting and accusations of bias from both fans and foes of glyphosate. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in November that evidence shows glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic. But the European Parliament has said the herbicide use should be reined in with a ban on non-professional use and around parks and playgrounds because of the health worries.
The EPA was due to release a fresh risk assessment on glyphosate nearly a year ago, but has stalled the process amid the uproar. And in an odd twist to the saga, on April 29, the agency posted an internal document to its website, showing that the EPA’s cancer assessment experts have determined that glyphosate is “Not Likely to be Carcinogenic to Humans.”
On May 2, EPA withdrew the memo from its website and said it was not supposed to have been released because the cancer assessment is ongoing. But Monsanto heralded the release of the document as proof of what it has been saying about glyphosate’s safety.
Wall Street is keeping a wary eye on the litigation. But generally market watchers care less about Monsanto’s risk from potential liability payouts and more about any potential long-term revenue hit if regulators were to restrict or ban glyphosate, said Piper Jaffray analyst Brett Wong, who tracks Monsanto’s business strategies and financial health. The courtroom battles could influence regulators, he said.
“There are obviously a lot of lawsuits,” Wong said. “They aren’t intrinsic to impacting their business but there is always some sentiment pressure on investors. If it were to impact the regulatory structure and glyphosate was banned... that could obviously have an impact.”
Legal experts with experience defending the chemical industry are watching the cases with interest, and many say given a lack of regulatory support for the cancer linkage, plaintiffs’ attorneys have an uphill climb to make such claims stick.
“The evidence to support the claims isn’t there, said one prominent lawyer, declining to be quoted by name. “It’s not mothers’ milk by any means. I wouldn’t mix it in my drink, but it’s one of the safest chemicals out there,” he said.
Attorney Brent Wisner, who is representing the McCall family, said he is confident in the strength of the evidence against Monsanto. “It’s going to be a fairly large litigation when it’s all said and done. We’re confident we’ll be able to show that Monsanto controlled research and suppressed science,” he said.
Back in Cambria, Jack McCall’s son Paul McCall is running the farm in his father’s place. His eyes tear quickly when asked about his father’s diagnosis in September 2015 and death only , the day after Christmas. He doesn’t want to talk about the lawsuit, other than to say he has no use for glyphosate now, and wants to warn others away from it.
“This is a battle that has to be fought,” he said.
How big and how bloody the litigation becomes is still an open question. The shouting from both sides of the issues is getting louder with each passing day. But the deep questions about the safety of this herbicide deserve serious and scientific review as the answers hold implications for our food production, our environment and the health of our families well into the future.
US traders reject GMO crops that lack global approval
Top grain handlers have banned GM crops that are not approved in all major overseas markets, shaking up a decades-old system that used the world's biggest exporting country as a launchpad for new seeds
This is the type of blockage for the GMO industry that it hoped would be overcome through the TTIP trade deal.
In the wake of the collapse of the TTIP amid the recent leaks, we have to ensure that it doesn’t rise again from its sickbed – possibly under a new identity.
U.S. traders reject GMO crops that lack global approval
By Tom Polansek and Karl Plume
Reuters, 6 May 2016
Across the U.S. Farm Belt, top grain handlers have banned genetically modified crops that are not approved in all major overseas markets, shaking up a decades-old system that used the world's biggest exporting country as a launchpad for new seeds from companies like Monsanto Co.
Bold yellow signs from global trader Bunge Ltd are posted at U.S. grain elevators barring 19 varieties of GMO corn and soybeans that lack approval in important markets.
CHS Inc, the country's largest farm cooperative, wants companies to keep seeds with new biotech traits off the market until they have full approval from major foreign buyers, Gary Anderson, a senior vice president for CHS, told Reuters.
"I think that would be the safest thing for the supply chain," he said. CHS implemented a policy last year under which it will not sell seeds or buy grain that contains traits lacking approvals needed for export.
The U.S. farm sector is trying to avoid a repeat of the turmoil that occurred in 2013 and 2014, when China turned away boatloads of U.S. corn containing a Syngenta AG trait called Viptera that it had not approved. Viptera corn was engineered to control insects.
Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and Archer Daniels Midland Co each said the rejections cost them millions of dollars, and both companies have sued Syngenta for damages. ADM is refusing GMO crops that lack global approval. Cargill did not respond to requests for comment.
The United States is the biggest producer of GMO crops and has long been at the forefront of technology aiming to protect crops against insects or allow them to resist herbicides.
That innovation is now seen as a risk to trade because it is hard to segregate crops containing unapproved traits from the billions of identical-looking bushels exported every year.
Soren Schroder, chief executive officer for Bunge, said the practice of launching GMO seeds without full approval is "very risky."
"It's an uncomfortable position for the industry when there are traits out there that haven't had major market approval," he said in an interview.
The latest crop being banned is Monsanto's Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean, whose seeds are genetically engineered to resist the herbicides glyphosate and dicamba. It is being sold for the first time in the United States and Canada this year despite lacking clearance from the European Union, an important export market for North American soybeans.
Monsanto said it expects EU approval soon. It initially projected farmers would plant the seed on 3 million acres in the United States, roughly 4 percent of overall plantings, and 420,000 acres in Canada.
Plantings have already begun in North America, and Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan said that each passing week without EU authorization lowers the forecast for acreage in Canada.
The company is allowing growers to switch to another variety and has not yet shipped Xtend seeds to farmers who have ordered it in Canada. Monsanto has not publicly lowered its U.S. forecast.
ADM, Bunge and CHS have said they will not accept Xtend soybeans until the trait is fully approved by major markets. Bunge also declined to accept Viptera corn before China cleared it in December 2014.
The company's list of banned traits on its yellow posters contains products from Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Stine Seeds, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer, many of which are not commercially available to farmers yet.
CHS has its own list of restricted traits that includes products from Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer.
Seed companies, including Syngenta and Dow, are addressing industry concerns by selling biotech products under programs that restrict where growers can deliver their harvests to keep crops out of unapproved markets.
Farmers also produce crops containing biotech traits from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer under contracts with end users that designate approved locations where they can be delivered.
However, such approaches are not fool-proof methods of protecting the supply chain, Anderson said.
Stine Seed and Bayer said they have policies against selling seed traits that lack approvals in major export markets.
Bayer this week seized on concerns about Monsanto's launch of Xtend soybeans to promote its own brand, LibertyLink.
"Soybeans, once considered such a simple crop to grow and market, is becoming more complicated," Bayer said. It called the situation faced by growers "downright confusing."
(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio)
India: Pests destroyed two-thirds of GM Bt cotton crop in two states
GM Bt seeds “have proved defenceless against pests and weather change, leading to devastating losses”
EXCERPT: Bt cotton had promised higher yield, low fertiliser use and tolerance to pests, but 15 years on, it has failed on all counts. As pests develop resistance, farmers are forced to increase pesticide use.
Fly in the face of Bt cotton
The Hindu Business Line, 6 May 2016
* India grows 95 per cent of its cotton from genetically modified hybrid seeds, which have proved defenceless against pests and weather change, leading to devastating losses
Cotton has been cultivated for over 5,000 years in India and traded for nearly as long. Today, more than 95 per cent of the cotton grown in the country comes from a foreign stock — the genetically modified (GM) hybrids of Bt cotton, which have proved defenceless against weather change and insect attacks year after year. Spurious insecticides have added to the cultivator’s woes.
Crop failures in the cotton-growing belt had, at the beginning of the year, provoked the Union government to set price controls on Bt cotton seeds. This saw shares of Monsanto, which sells patented GM cotton seeds, lose more than 20 per cent of their value. The company threatened to leave India if prices were capped, and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjiv Balyan was quoted as saying it was free to go.
India boasts one-fourth of the total cotton-growing area worldwide but its yield per hectare has remained 470-550kg for over a decade, way below the world average of 786. China, growing cotton in half the area that India does, is the world’s top producer. Indian growers have been the worst hit by changing weather and pests — they lost half their crop, while growers elsewhere lost only a quarter, according to a 2009 research paper by IIM-Ahmedabad.
Experts blame the loss on a faulty decision to grow the wrong type of cotton, that too at the wrong time. “India is cultivating a longer maturing variety (more than 180 days’ duration), and this gives insects that turn up in November a chance to attack the crop,” says KR Kranthi, director, Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR). “Across the globe people got rid of bollworm by cultivating shorter-duration varieties, while India moved to hybrid varieties of 180-240 days, giving insects an even longer window to attack the plants.” The hybrids that were cleared for cultivation in India were not suited for the long term. CICR had issued warnings in the past, but these were ignored. “Fortunately, the bollworm and the whitefly have helped us out,” says Kranthi, with no trace of irony.
Timeline of loss
In 2014, after the Bt cotton crop failed in over 56,000 hectares in seven districts of Karnataka, the state government blacklisted Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Private Limited), in which Monsanto has a 26 per cent stake. Ground visits by government agencies and Mahyco representatives pegged the loss at 235 cr [rupees]. Mahyco offered the farmers a token compensation of 10 crore [rupees], which the state government rejected and instead gave 35 crore [rupees] to the farmers on its own.
“The people of India have paid 270 crore [rupees] and the company profited,” says Mohini Mohan Mishra, secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS).
In 2015, whitefly attacked and destroyed nearly two-thirds of the cotton crop in Punjab and Haryana even after the farmers sprayed pesticides repeatedly. “Four years ago it was the mealy bug, last year it was the whitefly which attacked,” says Mishra.
Seeds of worry
Within a decade, input costs have increased threefold as seeds become more expensive and farmers have had to use more fertilisers to increase yield while also spraying pesticides. In 2012, farmers spent ₹63,751 per hectare, compared to less than ₹30,000 in 2007, as the figures compiled by the Cotton Advisory Board of India show. An increase in the international price of cotton is the reason farmers are still able to make some profit and continue growing the crop.
Seed prices make up a significant part of the input costs, as GM seeds are more expensive and cannot be reused — farmers buy them from seed companies every year. For the first time, this year, a Central government committee capped seed prices at 635 [rupees] (450 g packet) for the BG-1 hybrid and 800 [rupees] for the BG-2 hybrid. “The price of seeds has risen uncontrollably; companies are selling at their will and crops are failing,” says Mishra.
The country’s cotton production has been falling yearly, even as pesticide use has increased to the levels seen before Bt cotton was introduced. While it’s true that pesticide use shrank initially, in the last three years, however, farmers have used 1 kg/hectare as they scrambled to contain the bollworm and whitefly. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the pesticides used in the country ends up being sprayed on cotton crops.
As for fertilisers, hybrids have always required more. “The volume of fertiliser use has increased; we are now using 1 kg/ hectare compared to .9 kg/hectare before 2002,” says Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor at ASHA Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. “Chemical fertiliser use has increased threefold in the last five years, and this will burden public finances as our fertilisers are subsidised,” she adds.
Bt cotton had promised higher yield, low fertiliser use and tolerance to pests, but 15 years on, it has failed on all counts. As pests develop resistance, farmers are forced to increase pesticide use.
Agri activists point out that there is still time to turn the clock back and shift from Bt cotton to better-suited, diverse varieties. “If the government wants, it can give the seeds to farmers. We have 65 agricultural universities, 642 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and hundreds of other institutions which can contribute and give farmers the traditional varieties of seeds within a year,” says Mishra.
Cotton plants in India are grown at some of the lowest densities per acre worldwide, and hybrid plants require more fertiliser to flourish. Each cotton plant is under pressure to produce at least 100 bolls (fluffy cotton fruit), while the global average is seven bolls — this means the plants need a longer time to mature and grow bushy. The timing of the planting is important to ensure the plant is mature enough to deal with pests.
The CICR has developed 10 new hybrid varieties that mature faster and are also more suitable for cultivation in rain-fed areas. “If we plant cotton more densely, at 40,000 plants per acre, sow early and use varieties that mature faster, it is a much better combination to tackle the problems faced by cotton growers in the last few years,” explains Kranthi.
With the right kind of aid, the country’s cotton growers can once again capture the stature of top global producer.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
news/national/political- cartoonist-loses-job- corporate-complaint-article-1. 2624089
Political cartoonist for Iowa newspaper loses job after corporate advertiser complains about his latest drawing
What is going on with glyphosate? EPA’s odd handling of controversial chemical
US EPA yanks documents from its website after “inadvertent” publication
EXCERPT: Despite - or perhaps because of - the delays in issuing a final regulatory risk assessment on glyphosate, questions about the impact of the chemical on human health and the environment have been mounting. In addition to the lawsuits alleging glyphosate caused cancer in farm workers and others, private groups are scrambling to test a variety of food products for glyphosate residues.
What is going on with glyphosate? EPA’s odd handling of controversial chemical
Huffington Post, 2 May 2016
The Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing risk assessment of the world’s most widely used herbicide is starting to generate more questions than answers. , it also generated a giant “oops” from the EPA.
On Friday, April 29, the EPA posted on its website a series of documents related to its long-awaited risk assessment for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and other weed-killing products sold around the world. The risk assessment started in 2009 and was supposed to conclude in 2015. But questions about whether or not glyphosate may cause cancer are dogging the agency’s review, and have slowed the process.
, after the contents of the documents started to generate questions from media, EPA yanked those documents from its website:
An agency spokeswoman said this:
“Glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the Agency’s docket. These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final. EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS’s Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016.”
The EPA said it was “working through some important science issues on glyphosate, including residues of the chemical in human breast milk;” an “in-depth human incidents and epidemiology evaluation;” and a preliminary analysis of glyphosate toxicity to milkweed, a critical resource for the monarch butterfly.
Inadvertent or not, one of those documents posted and then withdrawn was a doozy, a heavy hammer that seeks to knock down worries about glyphosate ties to cancer. The agency released an Oct. 1, 2015 internal EPA memorandum from its cancer assessment review committee (CARC) that contradicts the March 2015 finding by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. EPA found instead that glyphosate is “Not Likely to be Carcinogenic to Humans.”
The memorandum stated that the classification was based on “weight-of-evidence considerations.”
CARC said this: “The epidemiological evidence at this time does not support a causal relationship between glyphosate exposure and solid tumors. There is also no evidence to support a causal relationship between glyphosate exposure and the following non-solid tumors: leukemia, multiple myeloma, or Hodgkin lymphoma. The epidemiological evidence at this time is inconclusive for a causal or clear associative relationship between glyphosate and NHL. Multiple case-control studies and one prospective cohort study found no association; whereas, results from a small number of case-control studies (mostly in Sweden) did suggest an association.”
Monsanto touted and tweeted the release of the document, which follows the release by EPA of a different memorandum supporting the safety of glyphosate last June. The newest memo gives the company added evidence to defend itself against a mounting stack of lawsuits filed by agricultural workers and others alleging Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide gave them cancer.
“This is the EPA’s highest ranking for product safety—they also do nice job of explaining all of IARC’s mistakes,” Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said in a twitter posting.
Monsanto has been calling on EPA to defend glyphosate against the cancer claims since the IARC classification came out in March 2015. A March 23, 2015 EPA email string released as part of a Freedom of Information request details Monsanto’s efforts to get EPA to “correct” the record on glyphosate “as it relates to carcinogenicity.”
Another document newly released by EPA - which was also then withdrawn - illustrates just why EPA’s risk assessment about the safety of glyphosate matters so much. In a memorandum dated Oct. 22, 2015, EPA detailed how extensively glyphosate is being used on food items.
That memo updates estimates of glyphosate use on crops in top agricultural states, and provides annual average use estimates for the decade 2004-2013. Seventy crops are on the EPA list, ranging alphabetically from alfalfa and almonds to watermelons and wheat. Glyphosate used on soybean fields, on an annual basis, is pegged at 101.2 million pounds; with corn-related use at 63.5 million pounds. Both those crops are genetically engineered so they can be sprayed directly with glyphosate as farmers treat fields for weeds. Cotton and canola, also genetically engineered to be glyphosate tolerant, also have high use numbers. But notable glyphosate use is also seen with oranges (3.2 million lbs); sorghum (3 million lbs); almonds (2.1 million lbs); grapes, (1.5 million lbs); grapefruit and apples (400,000 lbs each); and a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Despite - or perhaps because of - the delays in issuing a final regulatory risk assessment on glyphosate, questions about the impact of the chemical on human health and the environment have been mounting. In addition to the lawsuits alleging glyphosate caused cancer in farm workers and others, private groups are scrambling to test a variety of food products for glyphosate residues.
a lawsuit with a new twist on glyphosate concerns was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. That suit, which seeks class action status, alleges that glyphosate residues found in Quaker Oats invalidates claims by the Quaker Oats Co. that its product is wholly natural. “Glyphosate is a synthetic biocide and probable human carcinogen, with additional health dangers rapidly becoming known,” the lawsuit states. “When a product purports to be ‘100% Natural,’ consumers not only are willing to pay more for the product, they expect it to be pesticide-free,” the lawsuit states.
Questions about glyphosate have become so prevalent that U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu wrote a letter to EPA officials in December requesting EPA scientists meet with a group of independent scientists to go over “troubling information” related to glyphosate. Lieu cited concerns that EPA is relying on Monsanto-backed data rather than independent, peer-reviewed research in assessing glyphosate. Sources close to the situation say that meeting has been scheduled for , though both EPA and Lieu’s office declined to comment.
The EPA’s diligence on digging into glyphosate questions and concerns is encouraging to those who want to see a thorough risk assessment done. But the delay and the questionable actions with releasing documents and then withdrawing them from the public eye does not inspire confidence.
Indeed, in another curious move, the EPA on May 2 also issued a newly updated “registration review schedule.“ But while three dozen other chemical draft risk assessments are listed on the EPA website for release by the end of 2016, glyphosate was not included.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Monsanto's Highly Controversial Herbicide Is Currently Being Sprayed in Five of America's Largest Urban Areas
Man in a protective suit spraying plants against pests, Disinfection, photography
Photo Credit: overcrew/Shutterstock
Photo Credit: overcrew/Shutterstock
Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir have published two new interactive maps showing where glyphosate is being sprayed in California’s Bay Area and Portland.
Based on the maps, glyphosate—the cancer-linked main ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup—is being used in a number of public spaces including parks and playgrounds in both cities.
According to a press release sent to EcoWatch, the Portland map displays 1,592 locations in the city where herbicides containing glyphosate are being sprayed.
“Monsanto’s Roundup and its key ingredient glyphosate are major weapons in the Portland Parks Department’s arsenal of herbicides,” the release states.
A Care2 petition has been posted to stop the use of glyphosate in Portland’s public green spaces. The campaign, which has gathered more than 17,600 signatures, seems to be picking up momentum. In recent months, Portland lawmakers have mulled over new restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides in the city.
Meanwhile, in the city of San Francisco alone, more than 200 locations such as ball fields, libraries, playgrounds and parks are being doused with the herbicide, Inhabitat reported.
Rev. Billy’s San Francisco map was published in collaboration with the San Francisco Forest Alliance. The alliance has requested that the San Francisco Department of Environment remove Tier I and Tier II herbicides (especially Roundup/ Aquamaster and Garlon 4 Ultra) from the 2016 Reduced Risk Pesticide List, “without exceptions.”
San Francisco mother and Inhabitat editor Jill Fehrenbacher is currently petitioning for a glyphosate ban in public parks. The campaign has more than 12,000 signatures to date.
“If this sounds like just a local issue within San Francisco, it is not. Roundup/glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and city governments, organizations and companies spray it EVERYWHERE as a cost-effective approach to weed removal,” Fehrenbacher wrote on the Change.org petition. “Glyphosate may have an important place in agriculture (another debate entirely), but a possibly-carcinogenic pesticide should not be sprayed thoughtlessly around schools and public parks for no good reason. It is too much of a gamble with our public health.”
Earlier this year, Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir released a map of New York City locations being sprayed with glyphosate. The data was obtained by the group and members of the Coalition Against Poison Parks from the New York City Parks Department.
"Monsanto’s Roundup continues to be the major weapon in the New York City parks department’s arsenal of herbicides while scientific evidence that Roundup’s key ingredient, glyphosate, is toxic approaches the level of scientific consensus,” the New York City-based group said in February. “The frequency of parks department’s use of Monsanto’s Roundup doubled since 2013 with 1,300 spraying events reported. In 2014, overall herbicides use reported by volume increased by 16 percent with a 9 percent increase in the amount of glyphosate applied by volume.”
Organizers told EcoWatch that a “National Map of Roundup City Spraying” is coming together. Glyphosate maps for Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Philadelphia are currently in the pipeline.
Glyphosate, which is the most widely applied pesticide in the world, was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The organization also observed that non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers are the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure.
Monsanto has long maintained the safety of their product, denying the link to cancer and demanding a retraction of the IARC’s report.
Last September, California’s issued plans to add glyphosate to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer, making it the first state in the country to do so. Monsanto promptly filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from doing so.
Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.