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At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.
On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.
Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages.
On Monday, a federal court hearing in San Francisco will turn a public spotlight on to the science surrounding the safety of one of the world’s most widely used pesticides, a weedkilling chemical called glyphosate that has been linked to cancer and is commonly found in our food and water, even in our own bodily fluids. Given the broad health and environmental implications tied to the use of this pesticide, we would be well served to pay attention.
As the active ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup and hundreds of other herbicides, glyphosate represents billions of dollars in annual revenues for Monsanto and other companies, and is prominently used by farmers as an aid in food production. It’s also favored by cities for keeping public parks and playgrounds weed free, and by homeowners who want a tidy lawn. But the chemical was deemed a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s cancer experts in 2015 in a finding that has since triggered waves of liability lawsuits against Monsanto.
Heated debates over the safety – or lack thereof – of this popular pesticide have spanned the globe and sparked propaganda warfare with each side claiming the other has misrepresented the scientific record. Cancer victims allege Monsanto has “ghost” written research reviews, unduly influenced regulators and created front groups to falsely claim glyphosate safety. Monsanto, meanwhile, asserts multiple studies by international scientists are flawed and politically motivated, and says industry studies demonstrate the product is safe when used as intended.
In September 2012 Food and Chemical Toxicology, a respected scientific trade journal, released a study by a team of scientists at France’s Caen University led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini. The results of the study sent shockwaves around the world. Seralini’s group had just completed the world’s first-ever feeding study of the effect on more than 200 rats of a diet of GMO corn over a period of a full two years at a cost of €3 million. The study was ultimately published after a four-month peer-review process by scientifically qualified colleagues and after two years of research in absolute secrecy to avoid industry pressure.
Perhaps most astonishing was the fact that the Seralini study was the first long-term study of the effects of a GMO diet in the world after almost two decades of widespread proliferation of GMO crops. No one else until then had made tests over the entire two year life span of rats—no government, no university, no food end-user like Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg or Kraft Foods or any such mega food concerns using GMO in their products. All previous studies were merely a brief three months or less, far too short a time to determine the possible effects of a GMO diet, as Seralini’s study dramatically confirmed. Seralini’s group based their experiment on the same protocol as the original Monsanto study but, critically, testing more parameters more frequently. And the rats were studied for much longer—their full two year average life-time instead of just 90 days in the Monsanto study. The long time span proved critical. The first tumors only appeared after 4 to7 months into the study. In industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize, Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and EFSA alike. As Seralini’s study confirmed, they were indeed very biologically meaningful. The Seralini study concluded, “In females, all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly.... journal-neo.org...