Andrew Sullo is a member of the American Association for Justice, 2013-2019.
The herbicide Roundup contains glyphosate, an ingredient which kills weeds and certain grasses by blocking an enzyme which is essential for plant growth. Although Roundup is used extensively in agricultural applications, it is also used by home gardeners, on lawns, and in forestry applications. Additionally, there are certain amounts of pesticide chemical residues from Roundup use, which can remain in or on harvested crops. The EPA sets tolerance levels which provide a reasonable certainty of no harm; the established tolerances for glyphosate range from 0.1 to 310 ppm, depending on the crop.
The FDA’s role is to ensure the pesticide chemical residues on domestic and imported foods do not exceed the EPA’s established limits. According to the EPA, glyphosate has a low toxicity for people, however many have disputed the EPA’s characterization, even alleging collusion between the EPA and Monsanto. While the EPA issued a glyphosate assessment in December 2017 that concluded glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic in humans,” the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded the opposite, saying glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” The FDA recently streamlined the process for testing glyphosate residues, using a selective residue method.
This new method was developed because multi-residue methods which detect hundreds of pesticides in a single analysis, but MRMs did not work for glyphosate because of the chemical nature of the herbicide. Results of the new method of testing demonstrated its effectiveness to measure the residue levels of glyphosate in foods; in 2016, the corn and soybean samples which tested positive for glyphosate remained below the levels allowed by the EPA, although 47 percent of all samples had detectable residues of glyphosate.
FDA and EPA Testing of Glyphosate Questioned - That being said, according to an article in The Guardian, emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the FDA has actually had trouble finding any food which does not carry traces of glyphosate. FDA chemist Richard Thompson wrote to his colleagues that “I have brought wheat crackers, granola cereal and cornmeal from home and there’s a fair amount (of glyphosate) in all of them.” Thompson, who is based in an Arkansas FDA regional laboratory, concluded that broccoli was the only food on hand he found to be free of glyphosate. This particular internal FDA email was dated January 2017. Further, FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem found “over-the-tolerance” levels of glyphosate in corn—6.5 parts per million according to an FDA email.
The legal limit from the EPA is 5.0 parts per million, and while a higher level would normally be reported to the EPA, an FDA supervisor wrote to an EPA official that the corn was not considered an “official” sample. When the FDA was questioned about these internal emails and the high levels of glyphosate in tested foods, a spokesman for the agency would only say that no illegal levels have been found in corn, soy, milk or eggs. The spokesman would not address the unofficial findings of high glyphosate levels revealed in the internal emails.
Glyphosate Dangers for Those Spraying the Chemical - While glyphosate found in foods is certainly a concern, those who routinely spray Monsanto Roundup weed killer can either ingest the herbicide spray or have contact with the herbicide through the skin. The Monsanto Roundup lawsuits allege Roundup cancer as a result of this contact. DeWayne Johnson is an extreme example of glyphosate exposure; Johnson was the first plaintiff in the Monsanto Roundup lawsuits, and the first to win against the chemical manufacturer. Johnson, a California school groundskeeper, sprayed a high concentration version of Roundup over the school property approximately 20-30 times per year over the course of about four years.
Two years into his time as a school groundskeeper, Johnson was diagnosed with Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and, later, with a more aggressive form of the cancer. A San Francisco Superior Court jury decided the cancer was caused by glyphosate exposure, ordering Monsanto to pay Johnson $289 million in damages. That award was later reduced to $78 million, but Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer, have appealed the decision.
How Much Roundup Exposure is Too Much? The question then becomes, “How much is too much?” Johnson sprayed the herbicide from 50-gallon drums, and farmers and other agricultural workers also use Roundup in higher quantities than the average homeowner who uses Roundup on the lawn or in the garden. While this means that the risk of significant harm for the occasional user of Roundup is less than the risk for a farmer or other person who uses the herbicide often, it is still largely unclear just how significant that risk really is.
No Safe Levels of Glyphosate? Among scientists who are not in the herbicide industry, there is a consensus that there are no safe levels of glyphosate exposure—no level which comes with absolutely no potential harm. One of the primary problems associated with determining how much glyphosate exposure is too much for humans is that experiments with glyphosate cannot be conducted on people. There are, however, studies which show sugar cane cutters exposed to glyphosate suffered higher-than-normal renal damage, and women in rural communities where glyphosate was dropped by crop-dusting planes have experienced shortened pregnancies. These studies—and others which document glyphosate dangers—are often dismissed by politicians and scientists who have documented ties to Monsanto.
Tolerance to Glyphosate Means More Roundup Used Each Year - As weed species develop tolerances to the glyphosate sprayed, farmers are forced to use more and more Roundup to kill weeds and unwanted grasses. More glyphosate sprayed on crops means more glyphosate which finds its way into our bodies through spraying Roundup as well as in groundwater and foods which have been sprayed. Homeowners may also spray Roundup repeatedly as the weeds become resistant. While the effect of low-level glyphosate exposure may vary from person to person, it remains largely an unanswered question. As an example, a person with a weakened liver could be more susceptible to the unwanted effects of glyphosate than a healthy person.
Is a Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit Right for You? If you believe your Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other type of glyphosate cancer is the result of spraying Roundup, you could potentially benefit from speaking to a Sullo & Sullo Roundup attorney. Your Roundup lawyer can answer your questions regarding Roundup, glyphosate, and Monsanto, and can help you receive the treatment you need for your health issues. Contact a Sullo & Sullo Roundup attorney today.