Returning from a long summer road trip at the end of August, we found verdure growing five feet tall, covering every square inch of our land.  Abundant rains had brought this phenomenon for just the second time in the 20 years we’ve dwelt here.  The wild plants sported caterpillars of many stripes and colors, while our yard danced with butterflies of every size and hue.  Phantasmagoric might have been the word!  But this dense mass of life, growing taller and thicker each day, was reaching impenetrable.  (That’s the other operative word!)

So I hated to do it, but we hired a friend and set about pulling and cutting our jungle of “weeds,” leaving a couple of lush little islands of non-thorny thickets for ‘insect retreats.’  We wore household respirators to ward off all those crazy pollens that were ‘WAY over the top (I know you’ll agree!).  The work took us three seniors ten days, until at last I saw the “landscaping” and our food crops again, peaking out from under the Great Green Explosion

Finally, voila!  The fruits, flowers and vegetables emerged, plump and happy as can be after all that rain and pollination!  Stepping back philosophically for a moment: This past summer has been one of intense crises and intense marvels and I feel privileged to have been so immersed in them that I could see their beauty through the chaos.

An “uh-oh” Moment

Then I began to look around and noticed quite a number of lots in the county looked oddly bare, like they were dry from drought — even though the extraordinary monsoon was just letting up.  And suddenly, I got that creepy feeling:  I was looking at landscapes denuded by herbicides — most likely Round-Up.  I tried to recall what it is about Round-Up that gives some folks the creeps.  Does it kill the bees?  Does it hurt the kids?

I realized I was completely unclear as to what might be wrong with Round-Up.  I vaguely recalled lawsuits and court decrees; yet it seemed that the product only fills longer and longer and higher and higher shelf displays in home improvement stores with each passing year.  Is that because Round-Up had been found “Innocent”?  Puzzled, I ‘looked it up.’

The plant-killing agent in this popular herbicide is glyphosate — developed by Monsanto and deployed worldwide 20 to 30 years ago.  Major field crops like corn were then genetically “modified” by the chemical giant to withstand direct applications of Round-Up without withering like the weeds around them.  (And that’s how the Monarch butterfly’s crucial milkweed nearly bit the dust, along with countless other beneficial ‘roadside’ plants.)

By 2015, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen, associated with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.”  Seems it damages our bodies’ ability to repair our own DNA.  A longtime Monsanto/Bayer toxicologist had penned an internal memo to staff back in 2003, over liability concerns.  She advised co-workers:  “You cannot say Round-Up is not a carcinogen.  We have not done the necessary testing on this formulation to make that statement.”

Tell It to the Judge

Such discrete admissions are now surfacing in recent court trials.  One of the most damning, revealed in subpoenaed corporate emails, involves a respected public health journal that, in 2000, published a paper concluding that glyphosate “poses no public health risks.”  In truth, that and several other similar articles at the time were fraudulently ghost-written by corporate tech writers and NOT penned by the scientists purported to have carried out the research.

Within 20 years of those early, misleading publications, Bayer — having now assumed the liability of Monsanto’s bad faith — recently set aside $15 billion in anticipation of settling nearly 100,000 claims already filed against it by, largely, lymphoma cancer sufferers.  The court trials began in 2018.  So far, Monsanto/Bayer has lost three of the first four cases.

These were variously heard in Superior Court of San Bernardino County, Saint Louis County Circuit Court, California’s First Appellate Court, and the Missouri Court of Appeals (which in July, consolidated a class action suit, in an attempt to expedite the oncoming crush of claims).  Meanwhile, Bayer keeps begging the Supreme Court to throw out ‘all this bother’ on the grounds that the old Bush EPA ruled Round-Up product labels need not warn consumers that the herbicide can cause human cancers.

But this summer, the latest court trial heard expert witnesses from the National Center for Environmental Health’s Agency on Toxic Substances and from the Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  By early August, the First District Court of Appeals for California issued this scathing statement with its verdict:

“Monsanto’s conduct involved repeated actions over a period of many years, motivated by the desire for sales and profit. … Evidence showed that Monsanto failed to conduct adequate studies on glyphosate and Round-Up, thus impeding, discouraging or distorting scientific inquiry concerning [its product]. … The evidence shows Monsanto’s intransigent unwillingness to inform the public about the carcinogenic dangers of a product it made abundantly available at hardware stores and garden shops across the country.”

And with that, the sole trial win that Monsanto/Bayer had enjoyed was overturned on appeal — a case of childhood leukemia.  The Judge’s closing smack was no less stinging: “For reckless disregard of the health and safety of consumers, long-kept in the dark:  Guilty!”  And with that, he slammed down his gavel.

But NOW guess what …  Glyphosate is implicated in causing ALS — Baseball great Lou Gehrig’s miserable, deadly disease.  And finally, Bayer has announced it will remove Round-Up from the store shelves of ‘everyday Americans’ by 2023 — yet NOT take it away from “farmers and other commercial users,” whatever that means.  “Whoa, mama — Keep the kids inside!”

Source: U.S. Right to Know (RTK) — Pursuing Truth and Transparency for Public Health.

Kathryn Albrecht, El Defensor Chieftain contributing columnist