Three convictions in just eight months against Monsanto-Bayer. Courts in the United States confirmed that the herbicide glyphosate causes cancer. In Argentina, 200 million liters of the pesticide are used.
Tobacco companies denied for half a century that they caused cancer. The oil companies for decades rejected their responsibilities on climate change. The multinational Monsanto-Bayer has denied for years the effects of the Roundup herbicide (based on glyphosate), a pillar of the transgenic model. In just eight months, United States courts convicted Monsanto-Bayer three times for causing cancer and, in the last sentence, it was noted that the multinational concealed the risks of glyphosate. In Argentina, more than 200 million liters of the pesticide are used, and in the United States, more than 11,000 trials await sentencing.
On March 27, a California jury sentenced Monsanto-Bayer to pay $ 80 million for “negligence”, for having concealed the risks of its Roundup herbicide. The lawsuit was filed by Edwin Hardeman, a retiree from the city of Sonoma. It was the second part of the trial. In the first, ten days earlier, it had been concluded that the pesticide was a "determining factor" in the Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer) that Hardeman was diagnosed with in 2015.
"The jury held Monsanto responsible for its 40 years of corporate criminal conduct," explained the plaintiff's attorneys, Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff. The attorneys provided evidence of how Monsanto had (and maintains) a planned and ongoing policy to buy scientists, media outlets and officials.
The jury (before Judge Vince Chhabria) had already determined that the Monsanto-Bayer herbicide had contributed to Hardeman's cancer, who used it in his field for two decades.
The first conviction for Monsanto-Bayer happened in August 2018, also in California. Dewayne Johnson was awarded $ 289 million for cancer from his work as a gardener. In second instance, the court upheld Monsanto's liability but reduced the amount to $ 78 million.
Dewayne Johnson and Edwin Hardeman are the first of 11,000 lawsuits awaiting Monsanto-Bayer in the United States. The judicial plot is updated at monsantopapers.lavaca.org, the only site in Spanish that provides permanent information.
"The accumulated evidence suggests that Monsanto knew about the risks associated with exposure to glyphosate since the early 1980s," said Anabel Pomar, the only Argentine journalist who follows the United States' lawsuits.
Germany's Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, defends glyphosate (and other pesticides it sells) in the same way as the American company: it denies the hundreds of independent studies that confirm the health effects.
Bayer shares tumble at every sentence (down 12 percent last week). It is anyone's guess what will happen if the decisions in favor of Dewayne Johnson and Edwin Hardeman are repeated in a chain. Anabel Pomar of "Monsanto Papers" revealed that British consulting firm Jeffries LLC estimated that pending lawsuits could represent around $ 680 billion against Monsanto-Bayer.
In Argentina glyphosate is applied on 28 million hectares. Soybean, corn and cotton fields are sprayed with the herbicide. It is also used in citrus, pome fruit, vine, yerba mate, sunflower, pastures, pines and wheat. With the transgenic advance, the use of glyphosate increased geometrically. Among the companies that sell glyphosate in Argentina are Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta, Red Surcos, Atanor, Asociación de Cooperativas Argentinas, Nufram, Agrofina, Nidera, DuPont, YPF and Dow.
The media that advertise agribusiness have minimized or hidden the consequences of pesticides for decades. "There are no studies," they say. The Secretary of Science, Lino Barañao, summed up the business position in 2009: "It's like water with salt." As a Cambiemos official, he once again defended glyphosate and companies: "With antibiotics there is also misuse and deaths, and no one complains."
The investigation "Toxicological Anthology of Glyphosate", carried out by Eduardo Rossi of the Campaign Stop Fumigating Santa Fe, revealed the existence of at least 830 scientific works that confirm the effects on health and the environment.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, a specialized field of the World Health Organization) placed glyphosate in the second dangerous level (out of a scale of five). "Probably carcinogenic to humans," he determined.
The defenders of agribusiness (who have businesses related to agriculture) implemented two strategies in the face of the evidence against glyphosate: promoting “good agricultural practices”, with the illusory promise of reducing risks and, on the other hand, trying to replace glyphosate with other herbicides.
Those affected by agribusiness (fumigated peoples, peasants, indigenous people, socio-environmental assembly members) clarify that the underlying problem is not glyphosate, but the agricultural model based on transgenics and massive use of pesticides.
No control or studies
The National Service of Agrifood Health and Quality (Senasa) is the body that must regulate the use of pesticides in Argentina. For twenty years it has been controlled by officials in total harmony with the companies that produce pesticides. Senasa authorizes the use of agrochemicals based on confidential “studies” of the companies that sell them and does not take into account the chronic (long-term effects of poisons).
The Argentine state does not carry out its own studies when authorizing the use of pesticides.
- By Darío Aranda. Article published on April 1, 2019 in the newspaper Página12.