Canada: David vs. The Glyphosate Giant: Agricultural Workers Occupational Exposure To Roundup

Last Updated: April 10 2017
Article by Paul Miller

When you deal with product liability law, you frequently look at your cases and think about the story of David versus Goliath.

If an individual has been hurt by a defective product or the negligence of a company, they might look at their opponent and feel quite discouraged. Often these opponents are powerful companies or corporate entities that appear to have endless resources, access to litigators, and the resolve to wear down anyone who dares to challenge them.

Agrichemical giant Monsanto certainly fits the part of a Goliath. This multi-billion-dollar company, which draws about one-third of its overall sales from its Roundup herbicide products, has spent decades defending its prized product from accusations that regular exposure to it increases a person's risk of developing cancer and other illnesses.

The David, in this case, may be an agricultural worker who has spent years in environments where Roundup is used. Perhaps (s)he has developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is struggling to survive, weakened by the toll of the disease and the stress of trying to look after a family when very ill or unable to work.

In this blog post, I want to speak to this hypothetical of David to explain why in the battle against the Monsanto Goliath, their position is stronger than they might think.

When Working Makes You Sick

Few people are as regularly exposed to glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto's popular Roundup – as agricultural farm workers. As a broad-spectrum herbicide, Roundup was launched in the 1970s as a breakthrough product which blocked an enzyme that is critical to the plant growth cycle.

While the original Roundup was used by farmers, it was only in the 1990s that another breakthrough led to its skyrocketing popularity. Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready genetically modified crop seeds into the market. These seeds, which were resistant to Roundup, would grow undamaged while Roundup applied to fields would effectively kill weeds or other competing plants. As a result, the volume of Roundup herbicide used in agriculture increased 100-fold since the 1970s.

Accordingly, agricultural workers are now exposed to Roundup herbicide at much higher doses and in much greater frequency than in years past. If Roundup, as Monsanto has insisted, is "safer than table salt," this increase in exposure would not be too much cause for concern. However, when the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) completed an exhaustive review of all public data on the substance in 2015 it concluded Monsanto had probable links to cancer. Studies focusing on the risks of occupational exposure – including farm workers – were among the sources IARC reviewed.

Fighting a Giant

Monsanto has aggressively fought to discredit and dismiss past scientific research which found glyphosate exposure increased a person's risk of developing cancers or other illnesses. It has also lobbied regulatory agencies by promoting research it sponsors (which, unsurprisingly, deliver results much more favourable to the product). However, the shocking way Monsanto attacked and attempted to undermine the IARC report reveals just how concerned it is about what this agency's findings might due to its best seller.

However, the shocking way Monsanto attacked and attempted to undermine the IARC report reveals just how concerned it is about what this agency's findings might due to its best seller.

Monsanto should be more concerned about what the many "Davids" out there might do with the IARC's determination. Already many people who were or are regularly exposed to glyphosate products through their occupations have stepped forward to use the IARC report to their advantage in lawsuits against the company.

For years, people who developed cancers or other illnesses may have suspected their occupational exposure to glyphosate may have contributed or caused their condition, but they had great difficulty proving it as so many conflicting studies cast doubt on their claims. IARC's sterling reputation for independence – considered the "gold standard" for identifying carcinogens – and the review panel's decision about which types of studies merited inclusion in their review, gives people filing these lawsuits much more firepower.

The critical mass coming forward should give these individuals reassurance that they are not alone – many people, including scores of agricultural workers and farmers, have been adversely affected by Monsanto's Roundup product and the company's misleading advertising. These "Davids," using class action lawsuits and mass torts, will discover they have greater collective power than a Goliath whose past record reveals it has something to hide.

If you or a loved one has worked in the agricultural industry in Canada, come into regular exposure with Roundup or other glyphosate products, and believe you've become ill as a result, please contact personal injury and product liability lawyer Paul Miller to learn if you might be eligible for compensation and damages. With a product liability lawyer as your advocate, you and other "Davids" can bring the Monsanto Goliath to justice for its negligence.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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