The agrichemical giant Monsanto has found itself the target of health-related lawsuits lately over its weedkiller, Roundup. Users of the product have found themselves suffering from multiple side effects, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a potentially fatal type of blood and immune system cancer. Here’s what you need to know about the background, usage, health implications, and legal situation of this potentially dangerous product.
History and Use of Roundup
Monsanto’s Roundup is the brand name of a weed-killing product that’s based on the chemical glyphosate. Glyphosate was first discovered for use as an herbicide by Monsanto in 1970 and almost immediately brought to market, and the company remained the sole manufacturer of herbicides that contain glyphosate until the patent expired in 2000. Roundup has remained a steady source of income for Monsanto, as annual reports show it earned $13.5 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. In 2015 the company reportedly made $4.8 billion on Roundup alone, indicating that it is a sizable portion of Monsanto’s revenue.
Currently, glyphosate herbicides are being used at all levels of agriculture, including home gardens and lawncare, commercial farming, and professional landscaping. Municipalities may use Roundup to control weed and grass growth growing through sidewalks or other paved areas, as well. Industrial agribusiness is one of the largest consumers of Roundup, as well, leading to glyphosate-based herbicides becoming the most commonly used herbicides on the planet.
How Roundup Works
Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides work by affecting enzymes in most types of vegetation, including broad-leafed, grassy, and woody-type plants. When Roundup is sprayed on a growing plant, enzymes that are normally responsible for creating certain amino acids essential for plant growth no longer function, rapidly resulting in the death of the plant.
Glyphosate is so effective and so widely-used in agriculture that Monsanto has begun genetically engineering plants that are resistant to it. Called Roundup-Ready or RR crops, these GMOs (genetically modified organisms) allow farmers to apply Roundup indiscriminately over entire fields. This leaves the desired cash crops such as soy, corn, and cotton alive, while killing weeds and all other plant matter.
Roundup Linked to Lymphoma
Roundup has been promoted in the past as “safer than table salt.” But government and safety agencies have had glyphosate in their sights since the 1980s, when personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxicology Branch studied the chemical and determined that it was a “Category C Oncogene” carrying a risk of cancer.
In 2015, further research led the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify Roundup under its “Group 2A” monograph, which is the agency’s category for a substance that is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the second-highest rank for cancer risks. This research showed the potential link between exposure to glyphosate-containing herbicides like roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Sufferers of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may have symptoms such as the following:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged abdomen (swollen belly)
- Chest pains or feeling of pressure
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Heavy sweating in bed (night sweats)
- Unexplained fevers
- Weight loss
The American Cancer Society reports that the five-year survival rate for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 69 percent, while the ten-year survival rate drops to 59 percent. Treatment varies on a case-by-case basis, but may involve long, painful, and expensive therapy using chemotherapy drugs, radiation, biological therapy (including a new class of compounds called monoclonal antibodies, such as the drug Rituxan), or stem cell transplants.
Who May Be at Risk
Anyone who uses Roundup or related glyphosate products may be at risk for this type of cancer, not just those employed in industrial agribusiness. Many lawsuits are by regular home consumers who sprayed Roundup on their yards for relatively short periods of time, only to be diagnosed a short while later with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Others lawsuits are by people used the herbicide while at work on farms, in fruit groves, or in landscaping work.
What to Do If You Have Suffered from Roundup Exposure
If you were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s not too late to contact an attorney and seek compensation from Monsanto.
Wayne Wright has spent the past forty years standing up for victims of defective products and corporate greed, and would be proud to represent you in court. Contact Wayne Wright LLP to speak to a legal professional about your case today.