Monsanto Fights Back Against Cancer Lawsuits as Company Eliminates 12% of Workforce
[Update: On Oct. 9, EcoWatch was provided documentation regarding the Judi Fitzgerald vs. Monsanto Company lawsuit filed in New York. The documentation dated Oct. 6, says, "Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4l(a)(l)(A)(i), Plaintiff Judi Fitzgerald, by and through her undersigned counsel, hereby gives notice that the above-action against Defendant Monsanto Company is voluntarily dismissed without prejudice."
Update: On Oct. 15, EcoWatch contacted Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm representing Judi Fitzgerald. Robin Greenwald, the head of the firm's environmental law unit, said that the case was refiled in Delaware: “For clarification, we added Ms. Fitzgerald to a complaint we filed in Delaware. So we dismissed the suit in New York and refiled in Delaware state court, closer to her home and where Monsanto is incorporated.”]
#Monsanto Sued by Farm Workers Claiming #Roundup Caused Their Cancers http://t.co/NRhlrUScrR @GMOjournal #GMO http://t.co/l0qMxc5qaW— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1443625562.0
“We believe that glyphosate is safe for human health when used as labeled,” Monsanto's spokesperson Charla Lord told Bloomberg via email.
Lord also said that while Monsanto is sympathetic to individuals experiencing health problems, she added that the latest lawsuits brought against the company are “without merit.”
The first suit was filed in Los Angeles late last month by 58-year-old former field worker Enrique Rubio, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995. He believes his exposure to Roundup and other pesticides led to his diagnosis. That same day, 64-year-old assistant horticulturalist Judi Fitzgerald filed suit in New York City, making similar claims. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012.
The plaintiffs also accuse Monsanto of falsifying data and leading a "prolonged campaign of misinformation" to sway the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the herbicide.
These lawsuits come six months after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, reported that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The plaintiffs are heavily relying on these findings in their cases. The IARC report “confirms what has been believed for years: that glyphosate is toxic to humans,” Bloomberg reported.
Monsanto will eliminate 12% of workforce, forecasting 2016 earnings that trail expectations http://t.co/NpcRhdVJCD http://t.co/j6CLhKiwAn— Bloomberg (@Bloomberg)1444274123.0
Monsanto has demanded a retraction of the WHO report and will "vigorously" defend itself against the lawsuits.
“Decades of experience within agriculture and regulatory reviews using the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suit which will be vigorously defended,” Lord said.
The plaintiffs also cite Roundup bans in the Netherlands, France, Bermuda and other countries in their case, Bloomberg pointed out.
Fitzgerald and Rubio are both represented by Weitz & Luxenberg, a prominent New York City-based plaintiffs' law firm which specializes in asbestos disease, environmental pollutants, and dangerous drugs and medical devices.
The same firm happens to be representing the town and school districts of Westport, Massachusetts that filed suit against Monsanto last year to recover the costs of removing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from their schools.
Meanwhile, the world's largest seed company has seen slumping profits and announced Wednesday it will cut 2,600 jobs, or 12 percent of its 22,500-employee workforce, over the next two years.
Monsanto Co. said Wednesday it will eliminate 2,600 jobs. http://t.co/LwBiWwYOUd https://t.co/0RXijts30s #Monsanto http://t.co/Gl4tdujMLN— GMO Inside (@GMO Inside)1444271900.0
The move was a "part of a cost-saving plan designed to deal with falling sales of its biotech seeds and herbicides, which pushed its quarterly losses deeper into the red," the Associated Press reported.
Monsanto reported a $495 million loss for its fiscal fourth quarter. Sales of its best-selling product, biotech corn seeds, fell 5 percent to $598 million, and the company's chemical business, led by Roundup weed killer, also fell 12 percent to $1.1 billion.
It's no secret that the multinational biotech and agricultural firm has had a rough year. Last month, California’s Environmental Protection Agency issued plans to list glyphosate as known to cause cancer. Additionally, an appeals court in Lyon, France upheld a 2012 ruling against Monsanto, in which the company was found guilty of the chemical poisoning of a farmer named Paul François. Most of the European Union has also decided to "opt out" of growing the company's genetically modified maize.
And we let them spray, & poison, our farmland? RT @prabalgurung: French Court - Monsanto Guilty of Chemical Poisoning http://t.co/ssG3JVzjBj— Sophia Bush (@Sophia Bush)1443068057.0
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.