May 15, 2016
Roundup Cancer Link Slams Monsanto With Lawsuit, But Is Glyphosate Really Unsafe?

Monsanto is being sued by a group of four farmers who claim that they got cancer because of the repeated use of Roundup -- more specifically, its active chemical glyphosate.

All four of the men in the Monsanto lawsuit have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They claim that their illness is the result of working alongside Roundup for years while the company insisted that their weedkiller was completely non-toxic, reported the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Since then, the farmers claim that Monsanto has waged a campaign to stamp out negative press regarding glyphosate, a chemical the plaintiffs allege is responsible for their cancer diagnosis. The lawsuit states that Monsanto "concealed or systematically sought to discredit" negative research.

"Monsanto championed falsified data and has attacked legitimate studies that revealed Roundup's dangers. Monsanto led a campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general population that Roundup is safe. Its continuing denial extends to the date of this Complaint."

It's not the first time someone has levied the claim against Monsanto. Roundup has faced a heavy public relations battle since the World Health Organization (WHO)'s International Agency Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in March of 2015.

"For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals."

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The possibility of glyphosate causing cancer has been a sore spot for Roundup and Monsanto. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Ever since then, Monsanto has found itself very much on the defensive about Roundup and, more specifically, glyphosate. On the company's website, a lengthy rebuttal published shortly after the IARC's report classified the substance as cancer-causing.

Monsanto pointed out that dozens of other organizations around the globe have investigated the link between cancer and glyphosate, and that the majority of them had continued to recommend the use of Roundup. In fact, the three other WHO authorities who have scrutinized the chemical -- including in drinking water -- have found it to be safe, reported Monsanto.

"Importantly, IARC overlooked decades of thorough and science-based analysis by regulatory agencies around the world and selectively interpreted data to arrive at its classification of glyphosate. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen. Regulatory agencies have reviewed all the key studies examined by IARC – and many more – and arrived at the overwhelming consensus that glyphosate poses no unreasonable risks to humans or the environment when used according to label instructions."
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Monsanto has gotten a bad reputation with the public for some studies that indicate Roundup and glyphosate may cause cancer. Now, they face a lawsuit over the issue in Nebraska. (Photograph by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

Some other members of the scientific community have also come out to defend Monsanto. IARC, supporters note, has only classified glyphosate as a class 2a carcinogenic substance. The organization reaches these classification groups through a number of criteria, including how much of something you are exposed to, how long you are exposed to it, how it gets into your body, and how susceptible you are to it. As the controversial component of Roundup has been shown to cause cancer in animals in some studies, it is filed under 2a -- despite the fact that scientific literature has not yet confirmed a link to cancer in humans.

One such group to recently discount the threat of glyphosate is the European Food Safety Authority. In November, the regulatory body concluded that it was "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans." These and other similar studies will no doubt factor into how Monsanto fares in the Roundup cancer link lawsuit, but many others remain skeptical.

[Image via Mike Mozart/Flickr]