Last March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), issued a new evaluation of glyphosate — the active chemical in Roundup® weedkiller — determining that glyphosate is ”probably carcinogenic to humans” and specifically linking exposure to glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and several other blood cancers.
Roundup® is the largest-selling and most widely-used herbicide in the world. Monsanto Company was the sole manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides from 1974 until 2000, when its U.S. patent on glyphosate expired. Although Monsanto’s Roundup products still dominate the marketplace, other companies sell glyphosate-based herbicides under the brand names Rodeo®, AquaNeat® and Aqua Star®.
Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides are ubiquitous in commercial agriculture, from corn fields to plant nurseries. A key reason for this is that Monsanto manufactures Roundup Ready® seeds for such crops as corn and soybeans. That means farmers can spray Roundup weedkiller onto their fields even during the growing season without harming the crop.
Exposure to glyphosate, therefore, would be even greater for farmworkers on fields with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® genetically modified crops. As of 2010, Roundup Ready® crops accounted for about 90 percent of the soybeans and about 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.
Roundup is even used on crops that are not Roundup Ready®. This is for the purposes of desiccating (drying) the crops to speed up the harvest or controlling weeds among the roots and between the rows of fruit trees.
Roundup is also used in home gardens, and anyone who purchases or uses Roundup for any purpose should be aware of the documented linkage between glyphosate and cancer.
Links Between Glyphosate and Cancer
Following its announcement in March 2015, IARC issued its Monograph 112 for glyphosate in July 2015. For this Monograph, an IARC Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at IARC from March 3–10, 2015 to assess the carcinogenicity of certain herbicides, including glyphosate.
The Working Group classified glyphosate as a Group 2A agent, which means that it is ”probably carcinogenic to humans.” The Group published its results in The Lancet Oncology. The Group identified a link between glyphosate and cancer and concluded that the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are NHL and other haematopoietic cancers, including hairy cell leukemia, lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and B-cell lymphoma.
The increased cancer risk persisted after adjustment for other pesticides. The IARC Working Group also found that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells.
IARC’s conclusions followed a thorough and exhaustive analysis. Drawing on published reports in scientific literature and publically available data in government reports, IARC analyzed studies of occupational exposure of farmers and tree nursery workers in the U.S., forestry workers in Canada and Finland, and municipal weed-control workers in the United Kingdom. The IARC also examined para-occupational exposure in farming families. The assessment of the IARC Working Group identified several case-control studies of occupational exposure in the U.S., Canada, and Sweden.
IARC explained that exposure pathways to glyphosate include air (especially during spraying), water, and food. Community exposure to glyphosate is widespread and found in soil, air, surface water, and groundwater, as well as in food.
Roundup and Chemical Exposure
The segment of the population most vulnerable to Roundup’s harmful effects includes farmworkers and others with occupational exposure to Roundup. While using Roundup, chemical exposure happens on a regular and recurring basis.
Compounding the problem of frequent exposure is that, because Monsanto has been aggressively — and apparently falsely — touting the safety of Roundup for decades, farm owners may not be providing appropriate safety gear to farmworkers. The same is likely true for nursery workers, gardeners, landscapers, pesticide applicators, and anyone who cares for plants for their living.
Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable because many of them speak limited or no English, do not have legal status in the U.S., and are reasonably fearful of losing their jobs if they speak up. Moreover, access to medical care is limited for many farmworkers for economic or geographic reasons.
Farmworkers have reported being ordered to spray pesticides, including Roundup, with no protection for breathing or for their skin. They have reported being in the fields when crop-dusting planes fly overhead, and ordered to keep working during aerial spraying.
Even if workers remain off the fields during spraying, they are still very likely to be exposed to high amounts of glyphosate. The field dissipation half-life of glyphosate is 44 days and plants absorb glyphosate-based herbicides — meaning that they remain within the plants rather than just sitting on the plants’ surface. Glyphosate may remain on farmworkers’ clothing, thereby enabling transport to their homes and exposing their families to the poison.
The fundamental issue here is that for decades, farmworkers, nursery workers, commercial gardeners, and farmers have been unwittingly exposed to a toxin that IARC recently determined is a probable human carcinogen and linked to several types of blood cancer.
There are considerable indications that scientific fraud underlies the marketing and sale of Roundup. Based on early studies showing that glyphosate could cause cancer in laboratory animals, the EPA originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985. After pressure from Monsanto, including contrary studies it provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EPA changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans in 1991. However, the EPA has clarified that the latter classification is not a guarantee or assurance of safety.
Moreover, on two occasions, the EPA found that the laboratories Monsanto hired to test the toxicity of its Roundup products for registration purposes committed fraud. Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT) performed about 30 tests for the initial registration of Roundup in the early 1970s. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EPA both found discrepancies and falsities in IBT data. One EPA reviewer discovered that IBT claimed to have taken uterus specimens from male rabbits. Three top IBT executives were convicted of fraud in 1983.
In the second incident of data falsification, Monsanto hired Craven Laboratories in 1991 to perform pesticide and herbicide studies, including for Roundup. In that same year, the owner of Craven Laboratories and three of its employees were indicted, and later convicted, of fraudulent laboratory practices in the testing of pesticides and herbicides.
Filing a Lawsuit for Cancer Caused by Glyphosate-Based Herbicides, Including Roundup Weedkiller
The victims of Monsanto’s deception and production of a dangerous chemical deserve justice. For that reason, Weitz & Luxenberg is representing individuals exposed to Roundup who have developed blood cancer.
To date, we have filed two lawsuits on behalf of five individuals against Monsanto, in federal court in Los Angeles and state court in Delaware — Monsanto’s corporate home. Our clients suffered exposure to Roundup in crop fields, commercial nurseries, and at home. Prior to IARC’s evaluation of glyphosate, none of them could have been aware of the cancer-causing danger of glyphosate and Roundup. They have needlessly suffered in light of what Monsanto appears to have known about glyphosate and Roundup.
Weitz & Luxenberg is investigating potential toxic tort claims for glyphosate and Roundup exposure. If you have been exposed to any glyphosate-containing herbicide, including Roundup, and have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma or another type of blood cancer, please contact us at 877-413-1955.