After years of spraying Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide on her coffee farm in Hawaii, Christine Sheppard developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Now, as a stage IV cancer patient, she is one of more than 800 other cancer patients who are pursuing legal action against the agrochemical giant, alleging Roundup caused their cancer.
Ms. Sheppard, 67, told CNN that she learned of her cancer after her right leg “swelled up enormously.” An ultrasound found that her body was full of late-stage, large-cell cancer. She is undergoing chemotherapy, which has diminished her mobility and quality of life. Beyond her constant pain, she is experiencing “a strange nerve thing” that causes her to lose sensation in her feet, she told CNN.
These symptoms, she told CNN, “will be progressively worse. There’s no cure. Eventually, I will probably end up fairly immobilized.”
Ms. Sheppard has battled her lymphoma for 12 years, never knowing what might have caused it. But when she heard that a group of international cancer researchers classified glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – as a probable human carcinogen, she made the connection.
“I was incensed,” Ms. Sheppard told CNN. “We had no idea.”
Ms. Sheppard and other plaintiffs with similar lawsuits say that Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the health risks associated with Roundup.
Monsanto maintains there is no proof that Roundup promotes cancer, but attorneys representing plaintiffs in the Monsanto litigation point to evidence that the company knew about its hazards and worked to conceal them.
Court documents unsealed in March show that Monsanto officials produced ghostwritten studies that were passed off as “independent” and staged a prolonged campaign of misinformation to persuade consumers and government officials that Roundup is safe. Those efforts included discussing ways to discredit a March 2015 report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) linking glyphosate to cancer before it was published.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers also claim there is evidence Monsanto officials colluded with at least one authority at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who offered to stop an independent review of glyphosate’s toxicity to humans
One of the unsealed documents references an email in which an EPA authority tells a Monsanto official he should “get a medal” if he is able to kill a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services probe of glyphosate.
A lawyer for hundreds of the plaintiffs suing Monsanto told CNN that given the widespread use of Roundup, which Monsanto has advertised as “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic,” could include up to 3,000 plaintiffs by the end of the year.
Additionally, Monsanto has allegedly beat back claims that Roundup may cause cancer by employing Internet trolls to counter critics of the product online.
Meanwhile, with another discovery phase in the Monsanto litigation expected in October, Ms. Sheppard and her husband are holding onto what remains of their former life. The couple had to sell their coffee farm and move to California for cancer treatment. Ms. Sheppard has had to spend her 401k savings to pay the medical bills.
She also avoids air travel and crowded spaces because chemotherapy has left her with a weak immune system.
“They didn’t take away my life, thank goodness, but they took away our dreams, our savings,” she told CNN.