Two nonprofit groups allege that the agribusiness giant intentionally mislabels its weedkiller as "target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets." The lawsuit charges that Monsanto's statement is "false, deceptive and misleading" because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate "in fact, is found in people and pets."
Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association, through their attorneys at Richman Law Group, filed the lawsuit in Washington, DC, court on Friday under the District of Columbia's Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The case is Beyond Pesticides et al v Monsanto Co. et al.
"Monsanto aggressively markets Roundup as safe for humans and animals, despite newer studies indicating that glyphosate may be carcinogenic and affect human and animal cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems," the complaint states.
"Reasonable consumers must and do rely on Monsanto to report honestly Roundup's effects on humans and animals and whether the enzyme it targets is found in people and pets," it says. "No reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects their immune health."
The plaintiffs claim that Monsanto knows its representations are false but profited monetarily off Roundup anyway.
"Monsanto is aware of how glyphosate works on the shikimate pathway, and ... is aware of studies showing that the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria integral to the digestive systems of people and pets. Monsanto therefore knows that glyphosate targets an enzyme present not only in plants, but also in people and pets," the complaint states.
"By deceiving consumers about the nature and effects of Roundup, Monsanto is able to sell a greater volume of Roundup, and to command a higher price for Roundup," it says.
The groups are seeking equitable relief on behalf of the general public, with all profits earned by Monsanto for sales of Roundup in DC to be deposited into a charitable fund for the raising of consumer awareness of the effects of glyphosate.
Glyphosate has been at the center of many recent controversies. The chemical was recently added to California's Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing agents. And in a separate Roundup lawsuit, court documents suggest that Monsanto may have ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics to cover up the alleged cancer risks of glyphosate. Further, the documents suggest that a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may have worked on the company's behalf to quash reviews of the chemical.
Independent studies have detected glyphosate residues in commonly consumed foods such as cookies, crackers, popular cold cereals and chips. Another study found trace amounts of the herbicide in evaluated brands of cat and dog foods, including Purina, Friskies, Iams, 9 Lives, Kibbles 'n Bits and Rachael Ray.
Monsanto has long maintained the safety of its product and adamantly denies that it causes cancer.
But Jay Feldman, the executive director of Beyond Pesticides, said "Monsanto is falsely telling the public that its product cannot hurt them."
Ronnie Cummins, the Organic Consumers Association's international director, added, "For decades, Monsanto has used false labeling claims to dupe consumers into believing that they can spray Roundup on their yards and in their gardens, without risk to themselves, their children or their pets. It's time for the courts to step in."