Some Missouri farmers are taking more precautions while using the herbicide Roundup since a California jury awarded a school groundskeeper $289 million after finding that the weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer diagnosis.
Some privately told KCTV5 that for decades they believed Roundup was as safe as table salt so they didn’t take precautions. Farmer Jeff Nail says he now wears long sleeves and gloves when he treats his fields.
“I’ve been soaked a lot on accident,” he said. “But, if you use it, according to the label, there is no risk of cancer. That’s according to the EPA.”
Dewayne “Lee” Johnson was accidentally drenched in Roundup and Monsanto’s similar herbicide Ranger Pro twice. He tried contacting the company to make sure there was no risk. The company never got back to him.
After he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he took the company to court. It was during that landmark trial that a jury awarded Johnson the multimillion-dollar award. Johnson said he just wanted to hold the company accountable and warn other groundskeepers, farmers, landscapers and even home gardeners about the risk.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed the active ingredient in Roundup and Ranger Pro – glyphosate – as probably carcinogenic to humans. Studies show those who work regularly with glyphosate-containing products are at greater risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Despite this risk, Nail says he doesn’t plan to stop using Roundup. Monsanto genetically modified seeds to make crops resistant to glyphosate. When crops are doused with the herbicide, weeds die, but not the crop. For Nail, it has resulted in a 20 percent better crop yield. The Missouri Farm Association agreed, adding that Johnson’s case won’t likely sway farmers away from using Roundup.
Investigative journalist Carey Gillam, in her book “Whitewash,” says the safety of the world’s most popular weed killer has been questioned for years. “I think we need to be more protective of public health and to be more precautionary. We need to look at risks as well as rewards of these pesticides we use on our food and in farming,” KCTV reported.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG earlier this year, faces more than 8,000 lawsuits alleging its glyphosate-containing products cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma.