Battle against glyphosate ongoing


R. B. Dundon

Journal correspondent

Dewayne Anthony Lee Johnson is 46 years old. His friends call him Lee. He has a wife, Araceli, and two young sons, 10 and 13. Lee is dying of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL).

He worked as a groundskeeper for the California Benica school district (30 miles east of San Francisco). His job was to spray herbicides on the lawns, playgrounds and sports fields. In training sessions he was told the herbicide was "safe enough to drink." Each application, he diligently followed the label instructions and wore protective gear. After 2 years he developed NHL, a blood cancer that affects the immune system.

In the summer of 2018, the U.S. District court in San Francisco heard the case of Johnson v. Monsanto. The herbicide that Lee used was a Monsanto Roundup product. The key ingredient which is found in Roundup products is called glyphosate. On August 10, 2018 the jury found Monsanto guilty of intentionally concealing the human health risks of glyphosate.

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This lawsuit and the thousands of others that have since been filed are based in part on a March 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the 1970's, a research group within WHO, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has been developing reports on expected and known carcinogens. Their 2015 report concluded that Roundup/glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

The report was written by 17 scientists from 11 countries and led by the American Aaron Blair, an epidemiologist with the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Within months, almost 600 scientists in 72 countries signed a manifesto calling for a ban on spraying glyphosate-based herbicides.

Rene Ebersole, working with the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, and Carey Gillam (author of White Wash) wrote that as a result of the WHO report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to investigate Roundup/glyphosate. Communications obtained with the Freedom of Information Act show that Jess Rowland, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposed their action. Rowland e-mailed Don Jenkins, Monsanto's liason to EPA, "If I can kill this I should get a medal." Jenkins forwarded this e-mail to his colleagues and added "I doubt EPA and Jess can kill this; but it's good to know they are actually going to make the effort." (These e-mails were introduced in the Johnson trial.)

Two months after WHO labeled Roundup/glyphosate "probably carcinogenic to humans," EPA officials claimed that the planned Health and Human Services review of glyphosate was unnecessary. It was put on hold.

Roundup/glyphosate is used as a weedkiller in the Northshire. We need to ask questions. Is it used on our town parks and on school playgrounds? Unaware, do we inadvertently use it on our gardens and lawns?

This article is provided as part of Healthy Environment-Healthy Kids, an ongoing educational project of Transition Town Manchester.


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