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This Cancer Survivor’s Story Shows What Gutting the EPA Means for Human Health

By Ryan Schleeter

Donald Trump wants to slash the EPA's budget and defund public health programs—which could cost people like Heather Von St. James their lives. This is her story.

Heather Von St. James has a friendly, Midwestern quality to her voice. Speaking to her over the phone, she comes off relaxed and assured, passionate yet polished.

But when you ask her about Donald Trump, something in her voice starts to change. There's an exasperation, a sense of controlled but forceful frustration just under the surface of her jovial tone.

"It just makes me so angry," was the first thing she said when I asked her what she thought of Trump's decision to place Scott Pruitt at the head of the EPA.

That's because Heather knows firsthand the devastation that could happen if Trump and Pruitt's attempts to gut the EPA are successful.

At 36 years old, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. She's one of about 7 to 9 percent of mesothelioma patients who has lived more than five years after diagnosis, and one of even fewer who have actually defeated the disease. Since recovering 11 years ago, Heather has poured her time into fighting for regulations that limit Americans' exposure to asbestos and championing protections for environmental health.

And she was seeing important progress in regulating pollutants and carcinogens like asbestos through the EPA—until Trump entered office.

Trump's draft budget would cut EPA funding by 31 percent, slashing regulations that protect clean air and water for millions of Americans and reallocating the funds to the Department of Defense for "more warships and fighter jets."

In essence, it's more money for war and less for health and the environment.

"Those regulations are in place for a reason," Heather explains. "They are there to save lives; they're there to protect our kids and our future."

And when Heather talks about saving lives, it's not a figure of speech. Mesothelioma, a rare disease to begin with, claimed 45,000 lives between 1999 and 2015. The number of new cases rose each year during that period.

"I lost three friends this past week. Three people died," Heather said to me the very first time we spoke.

"I mean, this is a constant in my life. Without the backing of the EPA, people are going to get sick; people are going to keep dying for something that's completely, 100 percent preventable."

The problem is even larger than mesothelioma. Trump's budget jeopardizes Clean Air Act programs that have reduced harmful air pollutant emissions by 70 percent and prevented thousands of cases of asthma and respiratory disease. It cuts a program to keep children safe from lead exposure. It takes away money set aside for states to meet health-based drinking water standards.

All of that will come with significant costs that the American people—not Trump or the federal government—will have to bear.

Take Heather's experience. By the time she finished treatment, she had more than $1 million in medical expenses. She had to travel back and forth between her home in Minnesota and Boston for specialist treatment because, as she put it, "everybody I know in Minnesota died and I wanted to live." After going through radiation treatment and surgery to remove her left lung, one side of her body is numb. She can't work, and she had to give up co-ownership of her salon and the career that she built over more than a decade. If she doesn't have insurance, she'll die.

Once again, Heather's story is indicative of a larger trend. As much as the Trump administration has praised the benefits of its "cost-saving" budget, defunding EPA public health programs will actually come at enormous financial costs to working and middle class Americans. Those Clean Air Act programs on the chopping block, for instance, are expected to yield roughly $2 trillion in economic benefits in 2020 alone.

The financial costs of disease are astronomical, but that's not what Heather emphasized to me the most. It was the personal toll that hit her hardest.

"When I was sick I felt very alone," she said. "I missed out on the whole first year of my baby's life."

"I watched her grow up through black and white photos that my mom would send to me on email. These are things that you can't put a dollar amount on.

"In the end, that's what it comes down to with Trump's attacks on the EPA—putting the lives of millions of people at risk to protect industry profits.

And that's why Heather is using her story to fuel resistance.

"We may be up against a lot right now with this administration, but we have the truth on our side. We're not a corporation, we're individuals that this really happened to and we live it every single day."

As long as this administration is in power, Greenpeace will stand by people like Heather—and Flint, Porter Ranch, the Gulf, and all communities whose health has been jeopardized by toxic pollution—to defend our right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. Will you?

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Shell, Dow Hid Cancer-Causing Chemical in Pesticides, Contaminating Drinking Water for Millions

For decades, Shell and Dow hid a highly potent cancer-causing chemical in two widely used pesticides, contaminating drinking water for millions of people in California and beyond, according to lawsuits detailed in a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The chemical 1,2,3-trichloropropane or TCP, was formerly an unwanted and ineffective byproduct in Dow's Telone and Shell's D-D pesticides. Internal documents uncovered in lawsuits filed by communities in California's San Joaquin Valley show that the companies saved millions of dollars a year by not properly disposing of TCP, a chemical a Dow scientist once called "garbage," as hazardous waste.

Shell stopped making D-D in 1984 and Dow later took TCP out of Telone, but not before it contaminated the tap water supplies of 94 California utility districts serving 8 million people.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency testing program found TCP in tap water supplies for about 4 million people in 13 other states between 2013 and 2015, but the chemical is unregulated at the federal level and in every state except Hawaii.

Regulators in California will meet next week to decide whether to set a legal limit for TCP in tap water. Shell and Dow have paid multi-million dollar settlements to some communities to pay for filtering TCP out of water supplies, but dozens more cases are pending.

Dow and Shell "should have taken it out and disposed of it properly as a toxic waste. But that would have cost them a lot of money, so they left it in and continued to sell these pesticides to farmers throughout California," said Asha Kreiling, an analyst with the Community Water Center, which along with Clean Water Action has pushed the state to set a legal limit.

"This is an outrageous story of how Shell and Dow essentially got farmers who bought the pesticide to pay to help them get rid of a hazardous waste," said Bill Walker, EWG's managing editor and co-author of the report. "How many other hidden examples are there of chemical companies endangering communities through toxic deception?"

TCP was synthesized in the 1930s as one of many byproducts from the manufacture of a chemical used to make plastics. After pineapple growers in Hawaii found that the mixture of byproducts could kill microscopic worms called nematodes, Shell and Dow began marketing slightly different formulations of the mixture and eventually D-D and Telone became the second most heavily used pesticides in California.

But San Francisco attorney Todd Robins, who represents many smaller communities whose water is contaminated with TCP, said the companies knew TCP was useless as a pesticide—in fact, it made the products less effective. Yet both Shell and Dow claimed on the labels that the products were 100 percent active ingredients—false claims that violated federal regulations for registering pesticides. Robins also said the companies knew as early as 1952 that TCP in fumigants did not break down in soil and could migrate into groundwater. Once there, it persists for centuries.

In 2009, California state scientists set an extraordinarily low public health goal for TCP in drinking water of less than 1 part per trillion. Public health goals are not enforceable legal limits but minimal risk levels expected to cause no more than one case of cancer in a million people who drink and shower with the water daily for a lifetime. The only chemical with a lower California public health goal is dioxin, considered one of the most toxic substances known to science.

Staff of the California State Water Resources Control Board have proposed a legal limit of 5 parts per trillion, the lowest level current technology can reliably detect. A public hearing on the proposed standard, which is supported by Community Water Center, Clean Water Action, EWG and other groups, will be held April 19 in Sacramento.

"Shell and Dow put greed for profits ahead of the health of the people who bought and used their products," said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for Clean Water Action. "We can't reverse the tragic consequences, but setting a drinking water standard that's fully protective of public health can stem the threat going forward."

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California Becomes First State to Declare Glyphosate Causes Cancer

The state of California has finalized its decision designating glyphosate, the main ingredient in the pesticide Roundup, as a known human carcinogen under the state's Proposition 65. The listing was prompted by the World Health Organization's finding that glyphosate is a "probable" human carcinogen. The World Health Organization's cancer research agency is widely considered to be the gold standard for research on cancer.

"When it comes to Roundup, California has become a national leader in flagging the very real danger posed by this vastly over-used pesticide," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and a former cancer researcher. "The state based its decision on the findings of the world's most reliable, transparent and science-based assessment of glyphosate."

Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the U.S. and the world. It is also the most widely used pesticide in California, as measured by area of treated land. An analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity found that more than half of the glyphosate sprayed in California is applied in the state's eight most-impoverished counties. The analysis also found that the populations in these counties are predominantly Hispanic or Latino, indicating that glyphosate use in California is distributed unequally along both socioeconomic and racial lines.

"It's become painfully clear that we can no longer ignore the risk that this pesticide poses to people and wildlife," Donley said.

Earlier this month, a report released by a key scientific advisory panel concluded that the pesticides office at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to follow its own guidelines when it found last year that glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto's flagship pesticide Roundup—is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

And court documents released last week revealed that the chair of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee on glyphosate was in regular contact with Monsanto, providing insider information that guided Monsanto's messaging. The chair promised to thwart the Department of Health and Human Services' review of glyphosate's safety, saying that if he was successful he deserved a medal. The department never did review glyphosate's safety.

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Monsanto Faces Hundreds of New Cancer Lawsuits as Debate Over Glyphosate Rages On

Monsanto has been slapped with another slew of cancer lawsuits over its most popular pesticide as the debate over the health risks of glyphosate rages on.

Los Angeles-based law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed lawsuits last week on behalf of 136 plaintiffs from across the country who allege that exposure to Monsanto's glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Three bundled complaints were filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

"We're bringing the lawsuit to address the injuries that have been caused by Roundup and glyphosate to mainly farmers and farm workers, but we think that consumers and home gardeners have also been affected," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a co-counsel in the lawsuit, told St. Louis Public Radio.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at a press conference with Baum Hedlund clients outside of the courthouse in Fresno, California in January.Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman

The firm also filed another 40 cases in Alameda County, California, Superior Court, on Friday. The 40 individuals, all from California, allege that exposure to the herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The St. Louis plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto, Osborn & Barr Communications, Inc. and Osborn & Barr Holdings, Inc., all of St. Louis, Missouri.

The Alameda lawsuit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto and Wilbur Ellis Company, LLC of San Francisco, California.

More than 700 Roundup cancer claims have now been filed in state and federal courts. Kennedy estimated that claims could increase to 3,000 in the next few months.

Monsanto, which is awaiting a multi-billion dollar merger with Germany's Bayer, is facing a spate of controversy this month over its flagship product.

First, California became the first U.S. state to require the company to label Roundup as a possible carcinogen in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.

Then last week, a federal judge in San Francisco unsealed documents suggesting that company employees had ghostwritten scientific reports that U.S. regulators used to determine glyphosate does not cause cancer. Court files also indicated that Jess Rowland—a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who chaired a committee on cancer risk—worked with Monsanto to suppress reviews of glyphosate.

"Monsanto's newly released documents expose a culture corrupt enough to shock the company's most jaded critics," Kennedy said in a statement. "Those papers show sociopathic company officials ghostwriting scientific studies to conceal Roundup's risks from Monsanto's regulators and customers, including food consumers, farmers and the public."

"One wonders about the perverse morality that incentivizes executives to lie so easily and to put profits before human life," he added. "All humanity will benefit when a jury sees this scheme and gives this behemoth a new set of incentives."

Glyphosate, the most heavily used weedkiller in agricultural history, is currently used in more than 160 countries. However, a number of environmental and human health risks have been associated with its rampant use.

As Alternet wrote:

"In addition to its potential cancer-causing properties, Roundup has been linked to a host of other health issues such as ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, liver disease, reproductive problems and birth defects, as well as environmental impacts, such as the record decline of monarch butterflies. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey detected the presence of Roundup in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples take from the Mississippi Delta, a fertile agricultural region."

According to a press release from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, the lawsuits allege that Monsanto continues to proclaim to the world that Roundup creates no risks to human health or to the environment.

They also claim that Monsanto "championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed Roundup's dangers in order to prove that Roundup is safe for human use, while also ghostwriting studies and leading a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers, and the general population that Roundup was safe."

Monsanto's glyphosate woes all started when the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer concluded in 2015 that the chemical is a "probable carcinogen" to humans. Furthermore, the IARC said that the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.

The biotech giant refutes the classification and insists that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.

"We empathize with anyone facing cancer," Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord told St. Louis Public Radio via email. "We can also confidently say that glyphosate is not the cause. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate a carcinogen."

The IARC's classification contrasts with findings from several international agencies including the EPA and the European Chemicals Agency, which concluded earlier this month that glyphosate should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance.

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Unsealed Court Documents Suggest Monsanto Ghostwrote Research to Coverup Roundup Cancer Risk

By Reynard Loki

Monsanto suffered a major setback Tuesday when a federal judge in San Francisco unsealed documents that call into question the agrichemical giant's research practices and the safety of its best-selling herbicide, Roundup, the world's most-produced weedkiller. The documents counter industry-funded research that has long asserted Monsanto's flagship product—used by home gardeners, public park gardeners and farmers and applied to hundreds of crops—is relatively safe.

According to the New York Times:

The court documents included Monsanto's internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the documents unsealed by Judge Vince Chhabria was an email written by William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, giving his colleagues the green light to ghostwrite glyphosate research and then hire academics to put their names on the papers. He even cited an instance where the company had used this method in the past. "We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak," wrote Heydens.

The documents also indicate that within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there was not only internal disagreement regarding the agency's own safety assessment of Roundup, but also foul play. In one email from 2015, Dan Jenkins, a Monsanto executive, said that Jess Rowland, an EPA official who was heading the cancer risk evaluation of Roundup, referring to an agency review, had told him over the phone, "If I can kill this, I should get a medal." The review never happened.

The revelations from the current court challenge, a combination of more than 55 lawsuits filed against Monsanto in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—including individuals who claim to have developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to glyphosate exposure—adds significant weight to the mounting concerns about the widespread use of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. It also raises concerns about Monsanto's questionable methods to ensure a light regulatory hand on its marketplace activities.

The litigation was set in motion following the determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer arm, in March 2015, that Monsanto's controversial herbicide is "probably carcinogenic to humans." In its finding, IARC noted that "case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides."

In addition to its potential cancer-causing properties, Roundup has been linked to a host of other health issues such as ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, liver disease, reproductive problems and birth defects, as well as environmental impacts, such as the record decline of monarch butterflies. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey detected the presence of Roundup in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples take from the Mississippi Delta, a fertile agricultural region.

First approved for use in the 1970s, glyphosate is currently used in more than 160 countries. In California, farmers apply it to around 250 different crops. But as concerns have mounted, glyphosate bans have been passed by some nations, including El Salvador, Colombia, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and France, whose ban was passed just months after the IARC determination.

Monsanto isn't alone in its assertion that Roundup is safe. Some governmental agencies, including the EPA and the European Food Safety Agency, have disagreed with IARC's conclusion that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

Though Monsanto may have found pro-industry allies within the EPA, the judiciary has proved to be a tough arena for the world's largest seed company. The disclosure of the damning documents in San Francisco comes on the heels of a ruling Friday by Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan that California's EPA can now list glyphosate as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, more commonly known as Proposition 65. Kapetan's decision gives the state the authority to require Monsanto to label Roundup a possible carcinogen. Monsanto's attorney, Trenton Norris, argued that the warnings would hurt the company because it would dissuade some consumers from purchasing the product.

While Monsanto is on the defense in California, the collection of cases overseen by Judge Chhabria will soon have a global dimension, as he overruled Monsanto's objection to the plaintiffs' request to secure documents and depose a former Monsanto official from Europe. The New York Times reports that other Monsanto officials will be deposed in the coming weeks.

Chhabria also threatened Monsanto with sanctions if the company continues "overbroad" efforts to hide relevant documents from the public. "I have a problem with Monsanto, because … it is insisting that stuff be filed under seal that should not be filed under seal," he said at the hearing. When documents are "relevant to the litigation, they shouldn't be under seal, even … if Monsanto doesn't like what they say."

New court filings earlier this month focus on alleged collusion between Monsanto and the EPA. The basis for the allegation is a 2013 letter written by Marion Copley, in which the late EPA senior toxicologist asserts, "It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer," contradicting the agency's 1991 ruling that the chemical is not a human carcinogen. In that letter, Copley also accused Rowland of unethical behavior: "For once in your life, listen to me and don't play your political conniving games with the science to favor the registrants ... For once do the right thing and don't make decisions based on how it affects your bonus."

The recent legal setbacks, which comprise hundreds of lawsuits across the U.S., have put Monsanto on its back foot, but the company remains steadfast in its claims that glyphosate is relatively safe and has vowed to continue its fight in the courts. Monsanto spokesman Samuel Murphey called California's proposal to list the chemical under Proposition 65 "flawed and baseless," claiming it violates both the state and U.S. Constitution. "Monsanto will continue to challenge this unfounded proposed ruling on the basis of science and the law," Murphey said.

"Glyphosate is not a carcinogen," Monsanto insisted in a statement. The company added, "The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world. The plaintiffs have submitted isolated documents that are taken out of context." The company also rejected claims that the academic research it funds should be discredited.

For environmental, public health and corporate accountability advocates, the mounting legal pressure on Monsanto is welcome, but long overdue—and a bit surprising.

"Initially when these cases started to be filed, I was skeptical because Monsanto has such a strong track record of prevailing in court," said Carey Gillam, a director of the consumer group U.S. Right to Know. "But the more information that comes out through discovery and new scientific research that's emerging, the more it looks like the plaintiffs may have a case."

While hundreds of cases against Monsanto have already been filed in state and federal courts, Tim Litzenburg, an attorney with the Miller Firm, a Virginia-based law office filing many of the cases, believes that the number will increase rapidly. "Six to eight weeks from now they could number in the thousands," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

And though the science around glyphosate may not be settled in some regulatory agencies, sustained public debate about the chemical, as well as increased transparency in regard to its regulation, sale and marketing can only benefit consumers, farmers and wildlife. As John Barton, a farmer from Bakersfield, California, who believes Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, recently told the Fresno Bee, "I don't want anyone to go through what I have gone through."

Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

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California Judge Rules Against Monsanto, Allows Cancer Warning on Roundup

California is the first U.S. state to require Monsanto to label its blockbuster weed killer, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen, according to a ruling issued Friday by a California judge.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan previously issued a tentative ruling on Jan. 27 in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.

Judge Kapetan formalized her ruling Friday against Monsanto, which will allow California to proceed with the process of listing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65.

In January of 2016, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the State of California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) over the agency's notice of intent to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical.

OEHHA issued the notice after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report on glyphosate, which classified the chemical as a "probable human carcinogen." The IARC report compelled OEHHA to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical and warn consumers about the possible danger associated with glyphosate exposure.

Why Did Monsanto Sue the State of California?

In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 65 to address concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. Prop 65 requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

OEHHA is the administrator for the Proposition 65 program and determines in many cases whether chemicals or other substances meet the scientific and legal requirements to be placed on the Proposition 65 list. The agency uses a "Labor Code" listing mechanism, which directs the OEHHA to add chemicals or substances to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer if they meet certain classifications by the IARC.

Monsanto's lawsuit against OEHHA argued that the statutory basis underlying the agency's action to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical violates both the California and U.S. Constitutions. According to the complaint, listing glyphosate as chemical known to the state to cause cancer cedes regulatory authority to an "unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body" that isn't subject to oversight by California or the United States.

Though, according Judge Kapetan ruling:

"… the Labor Code listing mechanism does not constitute an unconstitutional delegation of authority to an outside agency, since the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.

"As Monsanto admits, the IARC's list is not created in response to the Labor Code listing mechanism or Proposition 65, and in fact IARC has stated that it disavows any policy or rulemaking role, and that it does not intend its determinations to carry the force of law."

In the months that followed, a number of interested nonparties joined the lawsuit as "intervenors," either on behalf of Monsanto or on behalf of the State of California. When a case has the potential to affect the rights of interested nonparties (individuals or organizations not named in the lawsuit), they can become intervenors, effectively joining the litigation either as a matter of right or at the court's discretion without the permission of the original litigants. Intervention simply gives nonparties that could be affected by a case's outcome a chance to be heard.

Below are the intervenors in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.

Monsanto Intervenors:

  • California Citrus Mutual
  • Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA)
  • California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations
  • California Grain & Feed Association
  • Almond Alliance of California
  • Western Plant Health Association

OEHHA Intervenors:

  • Center for Food Safety
  • Sierra Club
  • United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (AFL-CIO, CLC)
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Environmental Law Foundation
  • Canadian Labor Congress

Teri McCall is one of many California residents to cheer the ruling against Monsanto. Her husband, Jack, sprayed Roundup on the family's Cambia, California farm for nearly 30 years. In September 2015, Jack went to see a doctor to treat swollen lymph nodes in his neck. That day in the hospital, he learned that the swelling was caused by anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare and aggressive version of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Three months later, Jack suffered a severe stroke due to complications with his cancer treatment. He died on Dec. 26, 2015.

In the wake of her husband's death, Teri McCall filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monsanto, alleging the company knew about the link between Roundup and cancer, but failed to warn the public about the risk.

"My husband Jack was very conscious of the dangers of chemicals and his misfortune was taking Monsanto's word that Roundup was safe," McCall said at a press conference held in January in Fresno, California, following Judge Kapetan's tentative ruling.

"I don't want to see any more unsuspecting people die from cancer because they didn't know of the danger to their health from exposure to Roundup. Glyphosate in Roundup needs to be on the list of Prop 65 chemicals that are dangerous to our health so that people can make informed decisions for themselves about the risks they are willing to take. I don't believe my husband would have been willing to take that risk," McCall said.

It's great to see democracy is alive and well in California where judges are still willing to stand up for science, even against the most powerful corporate polluters. This decision gives Californians the right to protect themselves and their families from chemical trespass.

I am representing Ms. McCall along with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. We are also representing 230 other plaintiffs (45 from California) who are suing Monsanto for non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to Roundup, with more clients coming onboard every week.

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Judge Threatens to Sanction Monsanto for Secrecy in Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

By Carey Gillam

Nearly a year after a mysterious leak of industry-friendly information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many pressing questions remain about the agency's interactions with agribusiness giant Monsanto and its handling of cancer concerns with Monsanto's top-selling herbicide. But thanks to a federal court judge in California, we may soon start getting some answers.

The transcript of a recent court hearing reveals that Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing a combination of more than 55 lawsuits filed against Monsanto in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, warned Monsanto that many documents it is turning over in discovery will not be kept sealed despite the company's pleas for privacy. He threatened to impose sanctions if Monsanto persists in "overbroad" efforts to keep relevant documents out of public view.

The litigation against Monsanto has been filed by people from around the U.S. who allege that exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and has been on the rise in recent decades. While those lawsuits are being handled together as "multi-district litigation" (MDL) in San Francisco, hundreds of other plaintiffs are making similar allegations in lawsuits in multiple state courts as well. And the teams of lawyers involved say they are continuing to meet with prospective additional plaintiffs.

"I have a problem with Monsanto, because it's—it is insisting that stuff be filed under seal that should not be filed under seal," Judge Chhabria told the attorneys for both sides. When documents are "relevant to the litigation, they shouldn't be under seal, even if they are not—are embarrassing to Monsanto, you know, even if Monsanto doesn't like what they say."

This week the judge also gave a green light—over Monsanto's objection—to a plaintiffs' request to obtain documents and depose a key former Monsanto official from Europe. Other Monsanto officials are to be deposed within the next few weeks.

The central question to the mass of lawsuits is causation—can Roundup cause cancer, and has Monsanto wrongly covered up or ignored the risks. But the litigation is also threatening to pull back a curtain of secrecy that cloaks the government's work with Monsanto and its assessment of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup. There were concerns expressed years ago at the EPA that glyphosate could be carcinogenic, and many independent scientists have pointed to research that raises red flags about both glyphosate and the formulated products like Roundup. The International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. But the EPA has been steadfast in its assessment that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic.

Now plaintiffs' attorneys allege they are finding evidence in the discovery documents of apparent collusion between Monsanto and at least one high-level EPA official, though Monsanto vehemently denies that.

Monsanto has made billions of dollars a year for decades from its glyphosate-based herbicides, and they are the lynchpin to billions of dollars more it makes each year from the genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops it markets. As it moves toward a planned merger with Bayer AG, defending the safety of what has been the world's most widely used weed killer is critical.

So far, Monsanto has turned over close to 10 million documents to lawyers for the plaintiffs. Among those documents are some that detail Monsanto's interactions with EPA officials, including Jess Rowland, head of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee. A report by that committee was leaked to the public on April 29 of last year, posted on an EPA website when it should not have been, the agency said. The report stayed on the website only until May 2 before being deleted, but it was long enough for Monsanto to copy the report and tout it on its website and in social media postings. Monsanto also referenced the report in a key court hearing in May in the MDL cases.

The timing of the leak of the report was favorable to Monsanto, which at that time was not only trying to slow the advancement of the MDL litigation, but also was trying to convince European regulators to re-approve glyphosate in Europe and was suing California to try to keep the state from adding glyphosate to a list of chemical carcinogens.

According to court filings by plaintiffs' attorneys, discovery evidence "strongly suggests that Mr. Rowland's primary goal was to serve the interests of Monsanto." Rowland left the agency shortly after the April 29 leak and has not publicly addressed the matter. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Monsanto very much wants to keep its internal documents, including those related to Rowland, out of the public eye. The company says the information can be taken out of context and exploited unfairly to sway public opinion. According to the transcript, Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker complained to the judge that the plaintiffs' attorneys are "trying to try the case in litigation and the press." This is litigation, he said, "that people are following, that what happens in this courtroom ends up on blogs, posts, ends up in articles."

Nevertheless, Chhabria said he sees the documents related to Rowland and to the EPA and International Agency for Research on Cancer as relevant and not appropriate for sealing, meaning they could be made available in court filings soon.

Plaintiffs' attorneys have subpoenaed Rowland's deposition over initial objections from the EPA to a request for his deposition. In the hearing, the judge indicated that he favored allowing the deposition, though he gave the EPA until March 28 to file a motion to quash the subpoena.

Plaintiffs' attorneys are also preparing for the March 15 deposition of Monsanto's chief regulatory liaison, Dan Jenkins, who was in regular contact with the EPA regarding glyphosate for years. They plan to depose Susan Martino-Catt, the company's global supply chain strategy and operations lead on March 30. And the judge ruled that they may also depose and obtain documents from Mark Martens, a former employee of Monsanto in Belgium.

The judge is pushing both sides to keep to a frenzied pace for gathering experts and evidence. A key hearing is set for October in which the opposing parties will present expert witness testimony to the judge, and trial dates could begin in 2018, the attorneys project.

The consumer advocacy group I work for, U.S. Right to Know, on Thursday sued the EPA seeking a release of documents dealing with the Cancer Assessment Review Committee leak and other matters as questions persist about the safety of the product and whether or not assessments have been properly conducted.

The unfolding court case could soon start providing some answers.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

EPA Sued for Failure to Release Glyphosate Documents

U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy organization, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Public Citizen Litigation Group, a public interest law firm in Washington, DC, is representing U.S. Right to Know in the action.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, seeks documents related to EPA's assessment of a controversial chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is the key ingredient in Monsanto's branded Roundup herbicides as well as other weed-killing products. Concerns about the chemical have grown since the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Other scientists have also said research shows safety problems with the chemical and the formulations its used in.

U.S. Right to Know requested the EPA records after the EPA posted an internal memorandum titled GLYPHOSATE: Report of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) to the agency's website on April 29, 2016. The internal EPA report, known as the CARC report, concluded that glyphosate was "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." The EPA then deleted the public posting on May 2, 2016, saying that the document was posted inadvertently. But before it was deleted Monsanto officials copied the document, promoted it on the company website and on social media and made reference to it in a court hearing dealing with lawsuits filed by agricultural workers and others who allege Monsanto's herbicide gave them cancer.

The May 12, 2016, FOIA request asked for certain records relating to the CARC report on glyphosate as well as records of communications between Monsanto and EPA officials that discussed glyphosate issues. Under FOIA, the EPA had 20 working days to respond to the request, but well over 190 working days have now passed and the EPA has yet to produce any records in response to the request. The EPA has also failed to comply with similar, more recent FOIA requests made by U.S. Right to Know for documentation of EPA dealings with Monsanto regarding glyphosate, though those requests are not part of this lawsuit.

The lawsuit specifically claims that U.S. Right to Know has a statutory right under FOIA to the requested records and that EPA has no legal basis for refusing to produce these records. The complaint asks the court to order EPA to make the requested records promptly available.

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