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Roundup Cancer Lawsuits: Glyphosate Linked To Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Dozens of the world’s leading cancer researchers agree that glyphosate, the herbicide’s active ingredient, is a probable carcinogen. Now, hundreds of lawsuits accuse Monsanto, the world’s largest agrochemical company, of hiding an alleged link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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Many prominent scientists are now convinced that Roundup can cause cancer. Yet Monsanto continues to deny the link. The company’s behavior, to many observers, is indefensible. - Laurence Banville

Hundreds of farmers, landscapers, and home gardeners have filed product liability lawsuits against Monsanto, arguing that the company’s industry-leading herbicide Roundup causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Joined by families who have already lost loved ones to lymphoma, these plaintiffs are taking on one of the world’s largest corporations in federal and state courts across the country.

Hundreds Of Lawsuits Say Roundup Causes Cancer

The chemical known as glyphosate, patients say, is carcinogenic. To support their contention, plaintiffs draw on decades of medical research showing that people who are exposed to the substance develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at far higher rates than people who have never been around it.

More troubling? Cancer patients and families accuse Monsanto of engaging for years in a targeted campaign to discredit the researchers behind these studies, pressure regulatory agencies to label glyphosate-containing products as safe and trick the public into using more Roundup.

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Where Have The Lawsuits Been Filed?

Today, over 260 Roundup lawsuits have been consolidated in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. With District Judge Vince Chhabria presiding, this litigation is now moving through pre-trial proceedings. In San Francisco, hundreds of plaintiffs, many of whom filed their cases initially in other federal courts, have been allowed to work together. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients and their loved ones are pooling resources to advance their own best interests, pursuing significant financial compensation from Monsanto.

Beyond California, hundreds of similar Roundup lawsuits are making their way through the legal process in a state court in Missouri. A number of lawsuits have also been filed in Delaware. While these parallel litigations are all moving quickly, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients and families may be still be eligible to file a lawsuit of their own.

IARC: Glyphosate Is “Probable” Carcinogen

Farmers and medical researchers alike have been worried about the health effects of glyphosate for decades. But their concerns grew even stronger when, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer published its official monograph on the chemical. A wing of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, is generally considered the world’s leading expert organization on cancer risks.

People take IARC seriously, which is why the world was shocked to learn that IARC had concluded, after months of review, to classify glyphosate as “a probable carcinogen in humans.” Technically, IARC placed glyphosate in Group 2A, recognizing that “there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer has been using this classification system for nearly 50 years. Only 81 other chemicals have ever been listed as Group 2A.

International Cancer Group Highlights Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The evidence seemed to be in. The “gold standard” in cancer research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, had labeled glyphosate as a “possible carcinogen.” The group’s full report went into detail, citing a wealth of evidence to show that abnormally-high numbers of people who work closely with glyphosate-containing herbicides, including Roundup, develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even more, studies in animals found that mice who had been exposed to glyphosate contracted rare tumors at far higher levels than normal.

Experts Support IARC Classification

Prominent health researchers soon came out in support of IARC’s classification. In the Huffington Post, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christopher Portier had this to say: glyphosate “is a probable human carcinogen by any reasonable definition. It is nonsense to say otherwise.”

A 2016 paper in the journal Environmental Health laid out the “consensus” opinion shared by 12 of the world’s most respected authorities in the domains of cancer research and genetically-modified organisms. Biologists hailing from the University of California joined with molecular geneticists from King’s College London and environmental scientists at Carnegie Mellon to express their “concern” about the current state of research on glyphosate. The chemical, the experts wrote, had now been “authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen.”

Throwing their considerable weight behind the International Agency for Research, the researchers also expressed their great anxiety about the extent to which glyphosate has entered the world’s food and water supplies. As the most widely-used herbicides in the world, glyphosate-based products have made their way into our rivers and can be found in rain water falling on agricultural regions. “High residues” of the chemical are present in soy beans and many other crops that the world’s population relies on for sustenance. With so much glyphosate around us, the expert panel concluded, shouldn’t we be a little more worried about the chemical’s health effects?

Nations Ban, Limit Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

After IARC released its landmark carcinogen classification, several governments swept in to protect public health. The Ecology Minister for France immediately restricted the sale of Roundup in the country’s garden centers. Columbia, which had previously used Roundup to wipe out illegal coca plantations, announced that it would stop using all glyphosate-containing products. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka went further, banning glyphosate herbicides entirely, in both commercial and private applications.

California Puts Cancer Warning On Roundup

At least one state in the United States also took action. In 2015, the State of California announced that glyphosate would be placed on its official list of chemicals that cause cancer. California takes findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer very seriously.

Under a state law known as Proposition 65, every chemical that the international group labels as a possible carcinogen goes directly on a special register. To be sold legally in California, substances on the register must be labeled with clear warnings of a cancer risk.

In response to California’s decision, Monsanto sued the State. That case is still ongoing, but an appeals court ruled on June 22 that, regardless of the lawsuit’s ultimate outcome, glyphosate was going on the list by July 7, 2017. Glyphosate is currently listed as a chemical that is “known to the State of California” to cause cancer.

Monsanto Pressured EPA, Congress, Plaintiffs Say

Meanwhile, Monsanto’s high-level executives were working to undermine the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s findings, plaintiffs in a number of Roundup lawsuits claim. Court filings submitted by the company’s defense attorneys denigrated IARC as an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body.” Taking a step further, Monsanto issued a subpoena to review the emails of Aaron Blair, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute who served as chairman for the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s review of glyphosate.

Critics of the agrochemical industry have long condemned Monsanto for having “close” ties to the United State government. These ties, they say, became eminently clear after IARC released its monograph. In September of 2016, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by former-Utah State Representative Jason Chaffetz, questioned why the National Institutes of Health was funding IARC’s research. While Chaffetz made passing mention to IARC’s classification of coffee as “possibly carcinogenic,” the true subject of his letter was clear.

It was all about glyphosate. In fact, Chaffetz used most of the same arguments against IARC that Monsanto’s own lobbyists had leveled against the organization.

Why Did EPA Change Its Mind On Glyphosate?

Monsanto’s potential links to the US government go back decades. For example, it is surprising to note that, in 1985, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had come to much the same conclusion as the International Agency for Research on Cancer. That year, the EPA listed glyphosate as a Group C agent, one that was “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

This classification, plaintiffs argue, threatened Monsanto’s cash cow. The company makes billions of dollars off Roundup alone, basically controlling both the herbicide and seed industries in America. So Monsanto’s horde of corporate lobbyists went to work, lawsuits claim. The EPA was flooded with new medical studies, often funded by Monsanto itself, that appeared to demonstrate glyphosate’s safety.

Six years later, federal officials caved to the company’s pressure, plaintiffs write. The wealth of Monsanto-funded studies, it seems, convinced government regulators to downgrade Roundup’s cancer rating. For the last 26 years, glyphosate has been registered as a Group E chemical in the United States. Group E is reserved for substances for which evidence of “non-carcinogenicity” has been found. It’s important to pause here and consider what this classification actually means.

In listing glyphosate under Group E, the EPA wasn’t just reversing its earlier position. They could have said, “we just don’t know whether or not glyphosate causes cancer.” That’s not what they said. Instead, the EPA told consumers, including farmers and nursery workers across the nation, “we have evidence that glyphosate does not cause cancer.” That’s a major turn-around, especially when you consider that it only took EPA reviewers six years to change their minds. Science doesn’t usually work that fast.

Unapproved EPA Report Leaks

Stranger things, however, have been known to happen. Consider for a moment the “accidental” leak in May 2016 of an unapproved EPA report on glyphosate’s safety. The 87-page document appeared suddenly, without notice, on the EPA’s website one day, Reuters reports. The thrust of its message was clear: glyphosate, the report read, is “not likely to be carcinogenic in humans.”

Yet no one at the EPA had approved the draft, the report’s scientific conclusions or its release to the public. It disappeared about three days later. It’s impact on the Roundup litigation, though, had just begun. Monsanto seized on the unapproved report in court documents, holding up the EPA’s apparent conclusion as more evidence that glyphosate doesn’t cause lymphoma.

Where did the report come from? While he has vehemently denied these allegations, most sources place the blame on Jess Rowland, who used to lead the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee. It was this Committee, under the guidance of Rowland, who served as chairman for the agency’s 2016 review of glyphosate. And, mere days after the document’s leak, Rowland stepped down, resigning his position.

Jess Rowland: Monsanto’s “Mole” In The US Government?

But Rowland’s suspicious links to Monsanto actually go back for years. In 2015, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the US Health and Human Service Department, was conducting its own investigation into the research on glyphosate.

Internal corporate emails, made public during court proceedings, suggest that Jess Rowland maintained a more-than-friendly relationship with Monsanto. At least, that’s how plaintiffs have interpreted one email, in which Rowland, quoted by a Monsanto regulatory affairs employee, said “if I can kill this I should get a medal” – an apparent reference to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s investigation.

Citing this and other incriminating emails, plaintiffs argue that Rowland was working as a “mole” inside the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports. Odder still, the ATSDR never finished its inquiry on glyphosate, deciding instead to defer to the Environmental Protection Agency’s findings.

Learn More About Filing A Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

Were you or a loved diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup? Our experienced product liability attorneys can help.

Eligible patients may be able to secure considerable financial compensation, covering past and future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. In the case of a loved one’s tragic death, many families will be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, demanding compensation for funeral expenses, unpaid medical bills and loss of financial support, companionship and care. To learn more about your legal rights, contact our lawyers today for a free consultation.

About the Author
About Paul
Editor: Paul is a staff editor who focuses on bringing you the most important legal news regarding cases of sexual assault, drunk driving, and preventable violence. Contact Paul: This article was fact checked prior to publishing by this author to ensure compliance with our rigorous editorial standards. We will only use authoritative sources. Our values compel us to provide only trustworthy information. If you find an error, please contact us.
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