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Monsanto ordered to pay $289M damages in Roundup cancer trial (bbc.com)
243 points by dtien 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments



They are running a big campaign in favour of glyphosate in Reddit. in Argentina at least. Subreddit admins have cobtacted Reddit to suspend the campaign because of false claims going against the rules.

The campaign also tricks people because they post links to popular media sites. There is more information about this (in Spanish) here: https://www.reddit.com/r/argentina/comments/95m863/followup_...


They've been running a campaign on reddit for years. They've even had a subreddit where they coordinated, though I can't recall the name. They scan every subreddit for posts about Monsanto, glyphosate, or GMOs, and attack anyone who posts negatively about them. It was always the same people.

Edit: found the subreddit, though it doesn't appear to be as active as it used to be: https://www.reddit.com/r/GMOFacts/


That subreddit appears to be about genetically modified organisms, not glyphosate or other chemicals.


Glyphosate and GMOs are very intertwined. Just look at the second story on that subreddit. Monsanto sells GMO modified organisms that are glyphosate resistant.


Do you think they’re paid?


In fairness, with respect to both this case and the body of research cited in it, glyphosate wasn't the toxic part of Round Up.


I dont have the knowledge about the Round Up and glyphosate details but what I know is that in Argentina there are probed cases of cancer related to Round Up and making a promotional campaign in favour of glyphosate is misleading because people think Round Up is equal to glyphosate.


With all this new censorship creeping in it would be a constructive innovation to force corporate commenters to reveal their affiliation. Something like an obligatory checkbox: "[] are you posting on behalf of your employer?".

And then make it a punishable offense to "conceal corporate propaganda" if someone didn't check the box.


Earlier today I searched Google for "RoundUp alternatives Reddit" and found a bunch of comments saying it wasn't that bad. Stuff like "It causes cancer in the same way red meat causes cancer" or "Alternatives are probably worse they just haven't been studied as extensively because of their popularity".


Are those statements wrong?


They're conjecture


Encontré un compatriota parece. De vez en cuando entro a /r/argentina, pero me perdí de todo esto. Interesante.


Would be interesting to analyze whether their propaganda machine tried to manipulate opinions on HN too


A useful thing to know about this case is that the plaintiff took pains not to base their case on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, but rather of Roundup, which is less than half glyphosate. During their opening statement, any time they referenced a study about about glyphosate, they'd say "but remember that study only looked at glyphosate, not Roundup, and as we all know, more than half of Roundup is other stuff".

They seemed particularly interested in promoting a theory that the surfectant POEA had something to do with the illness.


So Monsanto were selling a dangerous pesticide and intentionally obfuscating its effects. It doesn't matter what part of the composition was toxic in this context. It's not pertinent in the real world whether gyphosate or something else was toxic, the substance in question is Round Up. If you're trying to have a debate about the merits of glyphosate that's a different subject. I think I linked you to the emails from the discovery for this case in another thread, where the scientists involved clearly knew that something was toxic and were scrambling to discover what at the same time that their superiors were scrambling to cover it up.


> So Monsanto were selling a dangerous pesticide and intentionally obfuscating its effects.

The same Monsanto that manufactured PCBs and Agent Orange? That's a crazy coincidence.


Well, no, not the same Monsanto that did any of that. They spun off their chemical division in 1996. [0]

More philosophically (and despite what SCOTUS has to say about it), companies aren't people; they are run by people. "Monsanto" can't do anything. The people running Monsanto have agency.

And the people who did the things you mention here are dead.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/11/business/monsanto-plans-t...


The people running Monsanto are buffered - if not always protected entirely - by numerous laws from facing the consequences of their actions, precisely because they take those actions in the context of a corporate entity.

If I poison my neighbour and I'm caught, I'm going to jail. (In the US I may face the death penalty.)

If I'm working inside a corporate and my decisions poison [unknown power of ten] people and cause [unknown but significant] number of serious and possibly fatal illnesses, I am protected by the profit motive - possibly forever, and in the best case until such time as there's a legal case which the corporate loses, and then loses again, definitively, on appeal.

This is not hypothetical. There are many historical examples - not least the tobacco industry, the fossil fuel industries, the car industry, and many, many more.

It's a curious situation, and not a very satisfactory one.

We really should not be allowing the pursuit of profit as an excuse for collectively harmful activities.


Are you sure about that whole "buffer" argument? Can you back it up with sources? I'm not sure that's correct.


Not the OP, but there's a long history of evidence that powerful corporations get away with a whole lot of things-- including murder. There is a great documentary by the BBC called The Century of the Self[0]. It isn't explicitly about this-- it's much broader-- but it does tangentially serve as sources for this kind of claim. Well worth a watch regardless of your views.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s


It's not that you aren't the original commenter, but that you're not making the same argument. I'm interested in an answer to the question I actually asked.


My answer is in the linked video, and doesn’t fit into a sound bite. If I understand your question, you are asking for evidence that corporations get away with things that normal citizens wouldn’t. The answer is that history provides ample evidence to back up this claim, and my link is one such piece of evidence.


No, you don't understand my question. My question is: is there some legal basis for the idea that a corporation serves as a liability "buffer" for the actions of its employees?


Sounds like your question has now moved the goal posts on what you imagine to be "that whole buffer argument".

What matters is whether corporations routinely get away with stuff that individuals don't, in practice. Not whether there's a "legal basis" for it.

And this is wide spread, plain obvious and readily admitted by most Americans.

Your framing of the question edges on the disingenuous because it really doesn't matter, even if there was legal basis to this or to the opposite, it would be selectively applied to large corporations any way. So many things for which there actually is a legal basis when it concerns individuals, corporations get away with in practice so frequently, that most individuals (of modal income) don't even attempt and try to get their right. Because they'll lose or bleed an unknown amount of money into it, which they probably can't afford.


If corporations can get away with things individuals can't and, as someone above said

> companies aren't people; they are run by people. "Monsanto" can't do anything. The people running Monsanto have agency.

Then that implies there are individuals using companies to get away with things they otherwise wouldn't be able to.


For starters, there are a number of recent Supreme Court decisions (interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act) that allow ToS to prevent consumers from suing as a class [1, 2], thereby ensuring disparate legal resources in favor of a corporation.

Generally speaking, the difficulty in bringing criminal cases against employees of corporations is convincing a court to pierce the corporate veil.

Unfortunately, this presents a catch-22. In order to prosecute an individual for corporate actions, one typically needs to prove the individual engaged in fraud or knowingly illegal actions (circumstances that justify piercing). However, if proved, one is unable to also sue the corporation (as you just argued the individual was acting against corporate interests and/or without corporate knowledge).

Furthermore, and I hope a lawyer corrects me if I'm wrong, criminal law requires much more stringent tests to prove guilty intent. In nebulous corporate power structures (and employing very expensive lawyers to design systems to shield themselves from exposing this proof), this is usually impossible.

E.g. criminal prosecutions over the housing crisis

[1] AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Mobility_LLC_v._Concepc...

[2] American Express v. Italian Colors (2013), http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/06/details-american-express-v...


I'm not sure I find this argument credible, since "piercing the corporate veil" is mostly a civil law concept; as I understand it, the model "veil" case is one in which Joe performs some service for BobCo, which promptly goes out of business upon receiving Joe's invoice. Joe would like to sue Bob, but his contract is with BobCo. There are instances where Joe can in fact sue Bob; those are the typical "veil" cases.

There is, as I understand it (as a company operator, not a lawyer, which I am not, though I have talked to them about this because I worry about getting sued) no "corporate veil" for torts. If Joe undertakes a service for BobCo, and Bob knowingly pays Joe in counterfeit dollars, Joe can sue Bob for fraud. If Joe performs that service competently and Bob defames him, maybe by claiming Joe stole all the company pencils and post-its, Joe can sue Bob for defamation. Joe might also be able to sue BobCo, but that's no consolation for Bob.

Given all this: I am having a hard time getting my head around how limited liability shields agents of a corporation from criminal charges.


(IANAL) I believe the definition of corporations varies widely enough from state to state that there may not even be an answer to this question.

My understanding is that there is still generally a veil in tort law, except when the tort was committed personally by an agent of the corporation.

I hit you in a company vehicle through my own negligence, you sue me.

I hit you in a company vehicle because I wasn't properly trained, you sue me and my company.

I hit you in a poorly maintained company vehicle and the steering column failed... who knows?

Fairly simple. But all cases of tort law are not personal.

Example being the Volkswagen emission case (okay, criminal too, but let's say a citizen is suing under tort law). Who's at fault?

As soon as I (the plaintiff) lose the ability to clearly point a finger, things get much murkier. Now I have to prove participation or a handful of other caveats to pierce and sue an employee. Probably by digging through thousands of emails.

This is where I'd say from a system perspective corporations provide a de facto buffer, even if it's not a legal one. Compared to simply suing an individual, proving all of this is much more expensive. Which now can't be aggregated (why I highlighted arbitration) so costs can't be divided.


I think we are now trying to work from axioms to a legal question neither of us are qualified to answer. But my current understanding is: working for a giant company while knowingly breaking the law, whether or not your company tells you to do it, does not shield you in any way from criminal liability.

As I understand it, the "interesting" questions here are the extent to which you can hold directors or even major shareholders responsible for criminal conduct --- people who may not have been directly implicated in crimes themselves. But if you commit a crime while working for Dow Chemical, or instruct someone to commit a crime who then does so, Dow's liability shield can't keep you out of prison.


I'm certainly going to ask my corporate lawyer friends next time I see them. But my disagreement is with the "does not shield you in any way", and where I say there is a de facto buffer.

If I commit a crime while working for Dow Chemical, the plaintiff must prove that (1) a crime was committed and (2) that I was personally responsible for it being committed.

This sounds exactly like what would need to be proved if I were unemployed and committed a crime, but the different regimes of tort, criminal, and corporate law that bank switch into play when a corporation is involved mean the lawsuit proceeds under different rules.

Essentially, I'd argue that case law affords someone working for a corporation far more options for defense than an average Joe, thereby making it unequal (aka buffering).


Let me know what they say!

With regards to your (1), (2) predicates: that's the case in every crime! Corporations present the additional problem of whether a person who instructed (or set up an incentive system that effectively instructed) you to commit a crime is also criminally liable. But your boss's liability, so far as I understand the law, never shields you from liability.

We want there to be joint liability between the person who commits the crime and the person who orders and profits from the crime. I'm ready to believe it's challenging to achieve that; that often only the people who actually commit crimes are charged in these corporate cases. But this subthread started because I read your first comment as suggesting that, simply by dint of committing a crime at a corporation, the alter ego liability of the corporation protected criminals. I do not believe that.


> But if you commit a crime while working for Dow Chemical, or instruct someone to commit a crime who then does so, Dow's liability shield can't keep you out of prison.

How about if you, in a powerful role, change incentives within the company such that people working under you are all but guaranteed to commit crimes, simply because the ones who refuse to will end up lower on the corporate ladder, so the supplicants and ones that will gladly commit crimes for you without having to be explicitly instructed, will remain?

Because that's not a very hypothetical power structure, at all.


Source: “The Chickenshit Club” by Eisinger. Explains how DOJ and SEC have moved to civil actions because they’re easier to prosecute, letting individuals at corps off the hook for actions they’d be criminally liable for if they took them against an individual in their individual capacity.


I have to think they're referring to the corporate veil.


That refers to civil liability --- in fact, mostly to contract liability, since tort claims sort of automatically "pierce".


You want to outlaw the car industry (for example) because it is collectively harmful and profit is being pursued?

What do you propose instead? Cars replaced horses. The latter regularly gravely injured people, and the dead horses and manure were a major health hazard in cities.


As I implied, the Supreme Court has some unintuitive thoughts about the personhood of corporations. And there may be various other legal constructs that bolster your claims here (I don't actually know).

But, as a philosophy, the notion that the decision to use Agent Orange in Vietnam has anything to with the debate about GMOs or the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate is a position that will only mislead and confuse you.

It's not a useful lens through which to view the world and the regularity with which arguments of this form appear in threads like this one is discouraging.


I've said it before, I'll say it again: all companies should be Public Benefit Corporations. PBCs are companies which, in addition to having a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, may add benefitting the public to their charter.

"Dump our waste in the river which is the water supply in order to save 2% on downstream costs? Sorry investors, no can do. That harms the public."

Make it part of CEOs job to benefit the public instead of make the rich richer. Why would we ever want a company that doesn't benefit the public?


I'd love to hear the reason for the downvotes. I'm not surprised - it is kind of radical - but I am curious why people think its a bad idea. I'm sure there are good reasons, I'm not an economist and I haven't thought about it that deeply for that long.


That's sophistry. You can take that line of argument to absolve anyone or anything from responsibility.

For example, none of the cells in my body are the same as ten years ago, ergo this is not the same body as a decade ago. Or, there is no continuity between my thoughts then and now, therefore mentally I am not the same entity. Or, all of the individuals composing a company when it committed an environmental crime are now retired, therefore it is no longer the same company.

Seriously? What about the continuity of corporate culture and management processes?


In your frenzy to hold Monsanto culpable for their “corporate culture and management processes” (whatever that means), you’re making arguments that you wouldn’t yourself endorse in any other context.

The son is not responsible for the sins of the father, no matter how much of the father’s “culture” he picked up along the way.

Agent Orange has nothing to do with GMOs or glyphosate. It just doesn’t. Full stop.


If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion, then no company could be held responsible for its actions if more than a generation had passed, because all the constituent employees would then have left.

But by the same logic, if companies are just convenient fictions, then they should have no rights whatsoever beyond those of their constituent employees - no fiscal benefits, no corporate donations, no political lobbying, no corporate legal representation, etc. Is that also your position?


No. You’re making a legal argument. Maybe that’s useful. Maybe not. But if your goal is to better understand the world, then it’s a dead-end.

(In other words, litigating the history of Agent Orange does not clarify or contextualie this discussion about glyphosate; it adds only unnecessary and unhelpful moral confusion. It obfuscates and misleads. It is political axe-grinding of the worst kind.)


Why not? It's the same legal entity committing both crimes.


Again, you're focusing on the legal entity. Maybe it's useful to hold the entity liable. Maybe not (I suspect not, but it's unrelated to my point).

My point is that if you want to meaningfully engage in and understand a debate about glyphosate on the Internet, then a subthread about Agent Orange is guaranteed to confuse, distract, and mislead.

It has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It's political axe-grinding. It's mere well-poisoning (and would be even if the same people were involved, but, moreover, the people responsible for Agent Orange are dead).


But corporate culture can matter. And culture affects who gets hired and how the employees act, even when new people come in.

If you ask biz school profs, culture is essential.

To me the bigger problem about treating corps as people is corps are willing to renege on any deal if it benefits them, and pursue profit at all costs. If a person you know acted like that, you’d call them a sociopath.

So “Corporations are people: sociopathic people.” Is probably the best description.


Did any of the people in decision making positions today work under the old guard? That might suggest a corporate culture that's been perpetuated.


Sure? My point is just that the case wasn't about glyphosate but about a particular Monsanto product. I sort of don't care what happens to Monsanto.


Point taken in that respect, I agree with you that glyphosate hasn't proven to be toxic or mutagenic across quite a lot of research, but if there's no non-toxic delivery vehicle for it it doesn't matter much :)


Is it possible that neither chemical is toxic alone but when used together they are?


> I sort of don't care what happens to Monsanto.

And yet you comment on every thread that mentions them :)


I do, because they are full of nonsense, and I am like a moth to the buglight with that kind of thing.


It's unfortunate that your continued vehemence with "that kind of thing" doesn't translate to being generally right as often, or even making for a pleasant discussion, participating or just reading along.

I see your name at the top of a thread, I just know I'm in for reading a huge thread that isn't much about the topic at hand (that alone should give you sufficient pause for thought), but about you trying to prove people wrong about an increasingly narrow question that you framed yourself.

In the end, you technically get to be right, and nobody learned anything.


Sorry. Never mind. I'm wrong. Glyphosate is a carcinogen, Monsanto sues every farmer within a 10 mile radius of one of their Roundup-Ready customers, the IARC and California carcinogenicity warnings are entirely reputable and based on only the soundest of science, and if you work for a corporation, prosecutors have to prove your boss didn't order you to commit a crime before they can come after you. Sorry for obstructing those truths. :)


I followed that argument a bit, and what I found was a Seralini study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756058/). He is known for some really bad studies about GMOs, those were simply terrible science and he obviously has an axe to grind.

The POEA experiments in that paper were about exposing cell cultures to different roundup compositions and components. It is not surprising that POEA kills the cells in this kind of experiment as it is a kind of detergent. Human cell cultures have no defense against having their cell membranes disrupted by detergents. Real humans are not cell cultures and can't be easily killed that mechanism. We have skin and other barriers like mucous membranes that protect the cells.

I didn't look much further, but seeing that paper as the first result does make me very skeptical about the idea.


> We have skin and other barriers that protect the cells.

This disregards the fact that Roundup can easily be inhaled or absorbed through food consumption or through skin-to-mouth contact.

It's literally sprayed. And when it's on food, it can easily be consumed.


yeah, you have to be careful with the studies that equate stuff in cell culture with stuff in real organisms.

we have metrics for "chemical X probabalistically causes cancer Y in tissue Z".

you can play games with the ROA and the probability. but the type of chemical (detergent, etc) is a non sequitor. if you expose cells to a detergent in high enough concentration, they'll lyse.

lysed cells are an ENTIRELY distinct "type" of cell death than the kind of cell death signature that you would see if the cell were cancerous. the author of that study didn't do any flow cytometry on his 293 T samples by the looks of it, but if he had, the differences would be enlightening. compare someone who has died in a plane crash to someone who died of ebola. you'd know that one was not the other very easily even if you couldn't attribute a cause.

anyhow, i looked at that paper you linked. the other big problem with the monsanto chemical -- which was not even mentioned in the lawsuit (!) was that it is an endocrine disruptor even in situations where it is not toxic. in other words, it's terrible for you and will distort your body's hormone chemistry in ways we probably don't even understand yet. that's just as big of a story as the chemical being legally confirmed as carcinogenic.


I'm confused, are you arguing that cellular changes cannot impact a larger organism because they have too many cells?


Cell cultures are plain cells growing in a plastic bottle. Human cells have only a cell membrane made of phospholipids around them, which can get easily disrupted by detergents. Humans don't die when exposed to a drop of soap, cell cultures do.

That doesn't mean that a detergents can't have other effects that are harmful to humans. It just means that I don't think a cell culture experiment proves anything in such a case. A study in animals would be something different.


The landscape is riddled with data from cell lines that doesn’t extrapolate to whole organisms. There is a massive difference between the two.


That's not how I'd interpret this sentence: "We have skin and other barriers that protect the cells." It sounds to me like the author claims that humans have skin, which is true, and that skin forms a barrier that protects internal cells, which is extremely plausible.


That's a literal interpretation. A contextual interpretation implies that Roundup cannot cause harm through the observed means because it cannot clear the skin, the latter of which is patently false.


No. The contextual interpretation says that the above-mentioned study doesn't prove Roundup is harmful because the same results would be observed with any detergent, to which we are regularly exposed without suffering any harm.

Therefore, Roundup might or might not be harmful, but the study doesn't tell us much about it.


> to which we are regularly exposed without suffering any harm.

Right, because we're instructed not to consume detergents. Following this instruction keeps the detergents outside the body.

We are instructed to consume food grown with herbicides such as Roundup, and Roundup is often (if not always) delivered in a sprayed manner with significant aerosolization.


And yet this is the first line of the article:

"Chemical giant Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289m (£226m) damages to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer."


another useful thing to know about this case is that monsanto was found to be malicious and intentional with regard to their obfuscation of the issue.

pray tell, why would a legitimate scientific inquiry need to be malicious and attempt to obfuscate contradictory research?


> Mr Johnson's lawyer, Brent Wisner, said the jury's verdict showed that the evidence against the product was "overwhelming".

Uhhh to say that is quite the stretch, a jury of layman should judge the scientific consensus? The referenced International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report is anything but conclusive. That verdict speaks more to the widespread uninformed FUD against GMO.

https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/2016/glyphosate...


> the scientific consensus

Uhh. You mean the lack of consensus. Which is bought and paid for by Monsanto. When it comes to their own products, they outspend any independent studies by orders of magnitude in order to create enough noise for there to be a lack of consensus long enough to make a profit. It's straight out of the tobacco industry playbook.


Not sure if it causes cancer or not, but this is like a security hole in the scientific process (ie mostly only the company that produces X will fund studies of X). It's interesting to think security holes more generally - Nick Szabo got me thinking along these lines with his recent pinned tweet: "Giant companies are the security holes of capitalism. The more centralized industries get, the more they attract socialist political activists. The Bolshevik Revolution was a violent version of this vs. railroad stations, newspapers, etc. Now activism is focused on tech giants."


That’s one way to look at it. Big companies attract activists and so are a risk for capitalism.

Another way would be that big companies do the most damage to the most people’s lives, and are a risk for humanity.


[flagged]


I think parent meant the ones that say it’s safe.


This case and this verdict had nothing to do with GMOs, but ok.


> This case and this verdict had nothing to do with GMOs

Over 80% of genetically modified (GM) crops grown worldwide are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with glyphosate herbicides.


And the case was not for, against, or anything other than casually adjacent to GMOs.


Have you read the case? It's not about the crops getting cancer from the herbicide, it's a human being. Also human being is not a GMO product. I don't understand your GMO angle.


I don't think you made an honest effort to understand the parent's point. They are saying that the jurors might have been biased against Monsanto due to the widespread fear of GMO, and glyphosate being a symbol of that fear.


I can't speak to what was in the jurors' minds, but in my opinion that's backwards: it is concern about glyphosate that is primarily driving fear of GMOs. If we got rid of glyphosate, I for one would not have any problem with the other GMOs I am currently aware of, though I would of course reserve the option of objecting to specific GMOs I might learn about in the future.


> it is concern about glyphosate that is primarily driving fear of GMOs.

In my experience the two most common anti-GMO arguments that I hear are: A) that GMOs can be patented, which creates IP problems when they spread, and B) that somehow human-designed species might be less safe than natural ones due to unintended health consequences of the modifications (not really sure the rationale for that one.)


How do you feel about bt crops?


It’s important to point out that this case is about Roundup as a whole product, of which less than half is glyphosate, not just glyphosate. Some other posts here go over this in more detail.


The IARC concluded "probably carcinogenic in humans" (category 2A). I'll give you it didn't say "definitely" but still not good.


> Uhhh to say that is quite the stretch, a jury of layman should judge the scientific consensus?

Who else is going to do it? Either a judge or a jury needs to determine the facts of a case if there's a dispute over the facts.


Whether the guilty verdict is ultimately upheld will probably be decided in a higher court. But this company sure has a dubious track record with previous hazardous substances that were in their product line:

> The company once manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange and recombinant bovine growth hormone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto


A toxic company


I don't understand how come those Germans bought this garbage for billions. worst deal ever!


Here are transcripts and documents from the case as its progressed of anyone is interested in how the jury was convinced: https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-round...


Interesting that this happens after Monsanto has been acquired by an EU company. How long have cases like this one been dismissed?

Are there any examples of US court rulings against big American companies with comparable foreign competitors? I mean, rulings affecting only the American company? (putting it at a disadvantage)

The US is becoming a risky market for foreign enterprises, since it has become extremely politicized, like so many corrupt countries around the world.


Last year, a jury in California issued an even larger $417-million verdict for a woman with ovarian cancer. Against Johnson & Johnson, an American pharma company. It was about talcum products, that is baby powder.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_%26_Johnson#Baby_powde...

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-cancer-talc-verd...


My mom is another one of these stories. I wish I was exaggerating. I bet there's still Round-up in the her garage. I've spent the last 4 years or my life have been devoted to working so I can afford her treatments and keep her around and happy.

Does anyone have any environmental attorneys they've worked with in the past they can recommend?


How do you know Round Up caused her cancer?


post hoc ergo propter hoc

Background frequency of cancer? Background frequency of owning the most popular weed killer? Expected number of co-incidence?


How do you do that on an individual level?

Even people who smoke that get cancer don’t know whether it was the smoking or not. Plenty of people who don’t smoke get lung cancer too.

I’ve never seen a cause of cancer determined beyond population analyses or someone having a specific gene where the rate of cancer development is near 100%.

Edit: I should also add extremely rare cancers where people have been exposed to a known causal agent. Like mesothelioma and asbestos.


Is your mother a professional gardener? This case is about Roundup causing cancer after professional-scale in-depth exposure for decades, not use in a home garden.


Wow, sorry to hear this. Good luck to you and your mother.


Sorry to hear! I hope you find a mean ass attorney who bites the shit out of Monsanto.


I vaguely remember watching an interview with an exec from Monsanto saying RoundUp was perfectly safe, safe enough to drink. Then immediately refusing to drink it when offered, because of course it's poison.


I remember that video as well but frankly it's a silly non-argument. There are plenty of things that are safe to eat and drink that will still be highly unpleasant, especially in concentrated form. I'm sure that drinking a glass of vinegar won't give me cancer but it doesn't mean that I will do it on cue. I also wonder how much table salt you need to eat before it starts having bad side effects but something tells me that it's less than a full glass.

Besides if the glyphosate truly is dangerous then the risk lies with microdosing it over a long period of time, I doubt farmers quaff bottles of Roundup when they're thirsty.


Salt is not safe to drink. Vinegar is to some extend (you can take several gulps)

Glyphosate is not. Claim was BS. Good journalists to challenge them on the spot. Bad Monsanto for making that claim. It is clearly not safe to drink. Not one gulp. Microdosing is not the point there, the claim was not made for microdosing, the claim was safe to drink.


The journalist was right to challenge him if the claim was BS but I disagree that asking him to drink a glass of roundup and him refusing is a good argument. I mean take the position of the Monsanto lobbyist, he most likely never attempted such a stunt before, he doesn't know how it tastes, he doesn't know if drinking a whole glass of it at once is going to cause digestive distress etc... Of course he's going to refuse even if he's honestly convinced that he's telling the truth.

Good journalism would've been to show how his claim is bullshit by citing sources disagreeing with the statement. But that doesn't make for good TV.

Also I disagree that the claim was that glyphosate was "safe to drink" like a soda or something, rather he said that it wasn't going to hurt you which is IMO not exactly the same thing, especially in the context which was that glyphosate was accused to cause cancer. I'm sure you could eat few spoonfuls of salt and it won't hurt you, I still don't advise doing it.

At this point I might sound a bit like a Monsanto lobbyist myself and I assure you I'm not, I'm just a bit annoyed that these types of stunts seem somehow more important than rational discussion and scientific studies. This guy is not even a Monsanto exec like claimed by the parent. I guess they revised their scripts after that.


  I disagree that asking
  him to drink a glass of
  roundup and him
  refusing is a good
  argument
Irrelevant to whether it’s a carcinogen, but it seems like a hell of a good argument if someone says it’s safe enough to drink.


I mean, the LD50 is something like a cup of the pure stuff. A bottle of concentrate is probably a lethal dose. Diluted 1 tbsp to a few gallons (like when spraying) a cup of it is probably fine. Granted, I personally wouldn’t drink it even if I prepared it myself, but I’m also not drinking a cup of bleach diluted well below a meaningful dose.


Wow, Monsanto is pretty good at SEO. Here's the first result that came up for a search of the video: https://i.imgur.com/JiZjlVL.png


That one is seo, since it is not tagged as an ad


Is that SEO, or them just paying to be there?


SEO


My dad, a retired farm manager, remembers a RoundUp salesman who used to drink the stuff as part of his sales routine. We wonder what happened to him.


Found the story you are thinking of. He wasn’t a Monsanto executive but otherwise correct. https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6956034


Well corrected on his affiliation. Great quote too... Drink RoundUp? "I'm not an idiot".


It’s been shown safe in like a hundred academic studies, though drinking it straight would be ill advised.

This judgement is absurd and not scientifically based, luckily the judge will reduce it.


According to an op-ed [0] in The Guardian there was evidence that Monsanto was behind many false reports that RoundUp was safe:

> Testimony and evidence presented at trial showed that the warning signs seen in scientific research dated back to the early 1980s and have only increased over the decades. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe. The company often pushed its version of science into the public realm through ghostwritten work that was designed to appear independent and thus more credible. Evidence was also presented to jurors showing how closely the company had worked with Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote the safety message and suppress evidence of harm.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/11/one-mans-su...

Edit: Could not find detailed information on the court case (among plenty of general articles), URL welcome.

Edit 2: jakewins had already provided a link to court proceedings: https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-round...


The presecution claims it's not the active ingredient but the whole herbicide that's cancer causing. I think the studies are only on one of the ingredients, not on the whole herbicide?

Also, questions of exposure are not addressed here. This person was drenched in it couple of times by accident. If I use rat poison for my job vs have it rubbed or consumed in different doses, results can be quite different. Monsanto claims it's safe in any form and quantity but I don't think that's ever been verified. Level of exposure matters a great deal. There is a reason so many cleaning products have warnings on them about keeping them away from the body (though not for cancer)


> The presecution claims it's not the active ingredient but the whole herbicide that's cancer causing. I think the studies are only on one of the ingredients, not on the whole herbicide?

Yes, the claim neatly was crafted to render all the systematically gathered evidence only tangentially relevant, so what you are left is a lay jury deciding what they feel is more probable (the civil standard being a mere preponderance of the evidence, not the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of criminal law) on a complex scientific topic without strong scientific evidence and with plenty of opportunity for factors which roster to the likeability of the parties to influence the decision.

Whatever the arguments are that this is a necessary thing to accept in the legal system (and maybe even desirable, in that it disincentives certain antisocial corporate conduct), it doesn't really say much about the underlying facts.


I'm confused. Are you also saying that any amount of exposure to this thing is completely fine? How is that fact? That's a claim. It is a mild poison after all.

They are punishing that level of arrogance. If they had a warning around it, they would be in way less trouble.


What is better for society: a warning that says something is toxic, or pretending that a poison is perfectly harmless?


not defending monsanto here, but this particular argument is garbage. your urine is safe to drink - will you do it in front of me on camera right now?


For $289 million? ;)


I'm cheap, I'd probably do it for $10k (1/4oz)... If it's a recurring deal, I might even do it weekly for $5k each time...


I’m imagining you at a party in a smart dinner jacket holding some sort of cocktail.

“So, what do you do for a living?”


well, at least I don't work for Facebook or Google ;) /s


Glyphosate is about as toxic as salt, as measured by LD50.

Are you willing to drink an entire glass of soy sauce to prove its safety?


Acute toxicity and carcinogenic activity are not the same thing.


Plenty of things are safe yet you shouldn't drink a glass of it - vinegar, dish soap, sea water, urine.


Reminded me of this little gem. Seems there's a whole tradition of inventors of pesticides offering to eat it on camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtcXXbuR244


Everything is a poison at a high enough enough dose.

You can drink small amounts of acetone (nail polish remover). Your body actually produces acetone in small quantities as a ketone body.

However, I wouldn’t agree to drink it either.


Along with all the other explanations on this thread of why that's a silly argument, there is the fact that glyphosate isn't the only thing in commercial RoundUp weed killer solutions.


Who said anything about glyphosate?



Arguably the main problem here is that he got defensive/hostile rather than refining or articulating his argument. Instead of saying "no, I'm not stupid", he maybe could have said "no, it would taste terrible and I'd probably throw up and and it may make me feel sick for a while, but the studies show that it wouldn't cause lasting damage to my body". (At least, I think that's his claim.) But then, he probably could have been more honest/clear in his original phrasing "you can drink a whole quart and it won't hurt you".


It's so rare that a journalist actually holds people to account for what they say nowadays, it's like an unexpected delicious lemonade stand on a hot day when you actually stumble upon those examples.


Drink of piss is also safe to drink. Just letting you know ;)


For some reason discussions about Roundup and glyphosate tend to focus on their carcinogenic properties. However, if you search the scientific literature it appears a stronger case can be made against either based on their endocrine disruptive properties, which appear quite a bit scarier due to observed effects at very low concentrations (lower than regulatory limits).

Since I can't formulate it so succinctly myself and because it answers several questions raised in previous comments here's the abstract of the article "Mesnage, R, Defarge, N, Spiroux de Vendômois, J, Séralini, G.E, Potential toxic effects of glyphosate and its commercial formulations below regulatory limits, Food and Chemical Toxicology (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2015.08.012.", but you will find similarly unsettling abstracts in many articles about this subject.

Abstract Glyphosate-based herbicides (GlyBH), including Roundup, are the most widely used pesticides worldwide. Their uses have increased exponentially since their introduction on the market. Residue levels in food or water, as well as human exposures, are escalating. We have reviewed the toxic effects of GlyBH measured below regulatory limits by evaluating the published literature and regulatory reports. We reveal a coherent body of evidence indicating that GlyBH could be toxic below the regulatory lowest observed adverse effect level for chronic toxic effects. It includes teratogenic, tumorigenic and hepatorenal effects. They could be explained by endocrine disruption and oxidative stress, causing metabolic alterations, depending on dose and exposure time. Some effects were detected in the range of the recommended acceptable daily intake. Toxic effects of commercial formulations can also be explained by GlyBH adjuvants, which have their own toxicity, but also enhance glyphosate toxicity. These challenge the assumption of safety of GlyBH at the levels at which they contaminate food and the environment, albeit these levels may fall below regulatory thresholds. Neurodevelopmental, reproductive, and transgenerational effects of GlyBH must be revisited, since a growing body of knowledge suggests the predominance of endocrine disrupting mechanisms caused by environmentally relevant levels of exposure.


Ugh. I was just about to spray weed killer on some spots in my backyard. :) The rain in the east this year has made it impossible to keep up with weeding!


Assuming you have a grass lawn, you wouldn’t want to spray roundup on a yard regardless as it would kill your grass also and potentially any non weed plants as well. There are other herbicides that grasses can tolerate though. In any cases, whatever you use is probably not a cause for concern if you’re following the label directions.


Here in eastern Canada weeds are not a problem everything died from lack of water and two months of 30C temperatures.


I'm in the same situation, I don't fancy breaking my back weeding by hand or hoe


Wow. The lawyers have to be celebrating this one.


Glyphosate and Roundup are poisons and Monsanto pretty much knows it. Let me give you a few facts and a bit of history to make my case.

There has been a lot of studies about Glyphosate nocivity around the years, but the three most significant are the ones led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The controversy began with a report published by the IARC, an intergovernmental agency under the authority of the WHO of the United Nations. According to this report, the carcinogenicity of Glyphosate is 'probable'.

This result was contradicted in November 2015 by a study published by the EFSA. In the face of uncertainty, many Member States refused to renew the authorization of Glyphosate, which was due to expire on 30 June 2016. Pending a new study, this time by the ECHA, the European Commission has only extended the product's registration until 15 December 2017.

This new study was published in March 2017. Like EFSA, it rejects the potential carcinogenicity of Glyphosate.

However, the potential dangerousness of Glyphosate is not ruled out. But why you asked, my good friend?

As many scientists, NGOs and politicians denounce, the IARC, EFSA and ECHA reports are not comparable. While the first one decides on marketed products, such as Roundup, the other two only study Glyphosate alone, without the adjuvants that reinforce its effects. Moreover, when IARC bases its analysis on public studies, EFSA and ECHA work mainly on data directly transmitted by industry, including Monsanto, which would make their conclusions questionable.

Yes, two of the most cited studies saying Glyphosate and Roundup are safe use data directly gave by Monsanto itself! And wait, there is more...

Christopher Portier, an American scientist, denounces those facts in an open letter sent on 29 May 2017 to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and relayed by numerous media. "Both EFSA and ECHA have failed to identify all statistically significant cases of increased cancer incidence in rodent studies," he writes. He also states that, using Monsato own data, he has detected "eight cases of significant increase in the incidence of different tumors", which appear in neither of the two publications. Mr Portier therefore 'respectfully' asks EFSA and ECHA to 'conduct their own analysis' and 'amend their conclusions accordingly'. To base his results, the American researcher relied on data used and published by EFSA, which until now had remained confidential.

If you still do not believe that, at least, the precautionary principle should apply here and that both Roundup and Glyphosate should be banned, I don't know what you need.

Sources:

https://www.touteleurope.eu/actualite/pourquoi-le-Glyphosate...

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate


(Redacted)


That's Dow Forefront, not Roundup. They aren't the same thing.


Good.


that fine is far to cheap


not if they have to pay it to everyone who can link their cancer to a Monsanto/Bayer product


that fine is far to cheap.


I'm just happy an average Joe could set precedence for more lawsuits against a scumbag evil corporation that does more harm than good on this planet. About time!




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