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Monsanto Cancer Lawsuits Take Dramatic Turn Over EPA Official's 'Highly Suspicious' Role

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Monsanto Cancer Lawsuits Take Dramatic Turn Over EPA Official's 'Highly Suspicious' Role

Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Jess Rowland may have to testify over claims that he covered up evidence that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's top-selling herbicide Roundup, could cause cancer.

A federal judge said at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday that he is likely to grant the deposition of Rowland, a key figure named in multi-district cancer lawsuits alleging that Monsanto failed to warn about the cancer risks associated with exposure to glyphosate.

"My reaction is when you consider the relevance of the EPA's reports, and you consider their relevance to this litigation, it seems appropriate to take Jess Rowland's deposition," U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said at the hearing.

The plaintiffs' lawyers argue that Rowland had a "highly suspicious" relationship with Monsanto, Bloomberg reported.

Rowland, a former deputy division director at the EPA, chaired the agency's Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC). The CARC determined that glyphosate was "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans," which differs from the International Agency for Research on Cancer conclusion that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. Rowland left the agency just days after a copy of the CARC report was leaked to the press in May 2016.

This new development in the case—Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco)—is yet another litigious nightmare for the St. Louis-based agrochemical giant, which is pending acquisition from Bayer AG. Incidentally, the German pharmaceutical company recently signaled that its $66 billion mega-merger with Monsanto may face delays amid regulatory concerns.

In response, Monsanto insisted that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.

"While we empathize with anyone facing these terrible illnesses, there is no evidence that glyphosate is the cause," Scott Partridge, Monsanto's Vice President of Global Strategy, said in a statement published by Bloomberg. "The very long and well-established history of safe glyphosate use—over 40 years in more than 160 countries—shows clearly that these claims are supported neither by the science nor the facts."

As U.S. Right to Know reported, the litigation involves more than 60 plaintiffs accusing Monsanto of covering up evidence that Roundup herbicide could cause cancer. The plaintiffs, all of whom are suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or lost a loved one to the disease, have asserted in recent court filings that Monsanto wielded significant influence within the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), and had close ties specifically to Rowland, who until last year was deputy division director within the health effects division of the OPP.

A Feb. 10 court filing includes correspondence dated March 4, 2013, from a 30-year career EPA scientist Marion Copley accusing Rowland of playing "political conniving games with the science" to favor pesticide companies such as Monsanto.

Citing evidence from animal studies, Copley wrote, "It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer." Copley went on to say that Rowland and another official "intimidated staff" into changing reports related to the glyphosate findings.

According to Bloomberg, Raven M. Norris, a lawyer at the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco representing the EPA, said it was "premature" to take Rowland's testimony.

The EPA has until March 28 to file written arguments opposing Rowland's deposition.

Eating too much black licorice can be toxic. Nat Aggiato / Pixabay

By Bill Sullivan

Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.

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Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

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