"Or you can trade it all for what's behind door number two..." Be honest – whenever you see this set up on a game show you secretly want the contestant to give up the sure thing and take a peek behind door number two. It might be an even greater prize, but it could be a gag gift or nothing at all. But at the point of the big reveal everyone is wondering the same thing – was the contestant right to be greedy?
Last week we witnessed a different kind of big reveal in a court case involving Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup – a broad-spectrum herbicide used in commercial agriculture, hobby gardening and landscaping. Unsealed court documents showed appalling evidence of greed on the part of this corporate giant that put the lives and health of many people in danger. But if justice is served in this case, Monsanto will learn that this kind of greed most certainly doesn't pay.
An Unsettling History
Recently I wrote about legal action Monsanto was facing in various parts of the world as it becomes increasingly clear that their Roundup product is a "probable carcinogen" to humans that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses. A California state court judge recently ruled the state could classify glyphosate as a cancer risk, for example.
While Monsanto insisted Roundup was safe – and actually marketed as "safer than table salt" – the company engaged in activity which might prompt some skepticism among objective observers. At least two laboratories hired by the company to test the product were later found to have falsified results or had owners and staff charged with fraudulent lab practices. In the 1990s the company also aggressively, and successfully, lobbied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reverse an earlier decision that warned it was "possibly carcinogenic."
Meanwhile, independent scientific research (not funded by agrochemical companies who have a very clear profit interest in their findings) had continually uncovered evidence that glyphosate exposure in humans was linked to increased risk of certain diseases. An exhaustive review of all public data on the substance in 2015 by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) found probable links to cancer.
With regulatory agencies declaring IARC to be the "gold standard" in identifying carcinogens, lawyers acting on behalf of people who had become sick, or died, due to glyphosate exposure began to file numerous lawsuits, including one brought to a San Francisco federal court.
Unsealed Internal Documents
The presiding judge in that case, Vince Chhabria, recently unsealed documents which revealed some of the shocking steps Monsanto took to protect the reputation of its premiere product.
In one internal email, Monsanto executive William F. Heydens suggested company officials could hire academics to put their names on research papers ghostwritten by the company. Plaintiffs in this case have argued that Monsanto employees acted as ghostwriters for parts of scientific research reports published in 2000 and 2013. The EPA had used both reports in its determination that glyphosate was safe.
Perhaps even more disturbing, the unsealed documents revealed that Jess Rowland, a senior official at the EPA, had alerted Monsanto to IARC's "probable carcinogen" determination months in advance of it being made public, allowing the company time to prepare a public relations offensive to cast doubt on their findings.
Internal emails also showed that Rowland had worked to prevent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from launching its own review. With Rowland reportedly saying that he "should get a medal" if he could stop the review, a Monsanto executive noted the EPA official was planning to retire in the near future and he "could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense."
The Ugly Truth
They say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. As these internal email communications are brought to light, lawyers representing hundreds – possibly soon to be thousands – of victims of glyphosate exposure can use them to show how festering greed and fear of losing profits motivated Monsanto to knowingly market a harmful chemical as safe.
If you have used Roundup or other glyphosate herbicides as an agricultural worker, landscaper, gardener or otherwise, and you have developed an illness that you believe may be a result of your exposure to a product you were led to believe was safe, you have options. You may be eligible to receive compensation for your pain and suffering and punitive damages owed by a company whose negligent actions hurt you and countless others.
For further reading, take a look at these news stories: Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents (New York Times), Monsanto Faces Hundreds of New Cancer Lawsuits as Debate Over Glyphosate Rages On (Eco Watch), Plaintiffs in US lawsuit say Monsanto ghostwrote Roundup studies (Fox News).
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.