U.S. glyphosate verdict puts agriculture on trial

Courts are increasingly being used as a tool by a variety of anti-commercial agriculture organizations to improve their public profile and drive fundraising. Such seems to be the case with a US$289-million award to California groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson in a recent U.S. decision involving glyphosate.

Juries understandably can have difficulty sorting fact from fiction, science from dogma.

This particular jury was tasked with deciding whether Johnson’s terminal, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma developed as a result of his use of Roundup (which contains glyphosate) for two years. Key to the outcome, and what made it different from other challenges related to the safety of glyphosate, is that lawyers presented scientific arguments about Monsanto’s corporate support of its product and the business processes behind it.

Compared to the plight of a dying father of three, no corporate position about a herbicide will strike emotional chords, let alone a position involving a chemical that has long been embattled in the court of public opinion.

Science was on trial when the jury in the Johnson case awarded $289 million, saying the company failed to disclose the hazards of Roundup.

Over its 40-year history the herbicide has been the target of many groups, many of them with intent to eliminate advanced biological science in agriculture and food production and end larger-scale commercial agriculture.

Despite a constant barrage of lawsuits, protests and public relations attacks, glyphosate remains one of the most popular and safe herbicides on the planet, registered in about 130 countries and subjected to the greatest public scientific scrutiny of any crop product in history.

Despite the science behind it, competing interests have fanned the flames of consumer doubt and soured the public well of social license.

Selective reporting has convinced many lay audiences and potential juries that glyphosate is dangerous to human health.

Last year’s American National Institutes of Agricultural Health Study looked at 55,000 farmers and pesticide applicators in the United States. More than 80 percent had used glyphosate for many years. No link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was found.

No lay jury could pick through all the science and choose which concepts were more right than others. However, it might be able to look upon the preponderance and quality of evidence supporting glyphosate and develop a conclusion that something this well studied is likely safe.

That’s not what the Johnson case was about.

Now a variety of groups are jumping on this refueled anti-science bandwagon.

For example, they are releasing analysis of glyphosate presence in oat products at less than 1/60 the levels that are allowable in food and claiming these present a risk to consumers. They are using the Johnson decision as ammunition.

More lawsuits have been filed about glyphosate and more scare tactics will result.

In the process, these lawsuits will threaten agriculture and food systems and place a financial chill over biological research and development in the sector.

Agriculture and science will not be getting a fair trial any time soon.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.


  • richard

    Interesting now that Bayer has nixed the troll room at Monsanto, that the sudden hush of mercenary bravado and vitriole on these and other pages has been replaced by journalists and academics both of whom have drank the Kool aid for forty years…. and both of whom find themselves trying to defend status quo ignorance with half truths and victimization. The “fair trial” is exactly what the perpetrator is receiving…..and is living proof that humans will always do the right thing…. but only after all other possibilities have been exhausted.

    • Solar Surfing

      It is absurd to suggest any corporation would pay a single penny to trolls two full years after the GMO safety debate became settled science. They won the battle and what you have seen since then is science respecting commenters like me who are fed up with seeing our hard working farmers insulted as they put in 14 hour days to feed us. https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2016/05/gmo-safety-debate-is-over/ It is this fact that encourages the army of Russian trolls to work harder than ever to spread discord. They are extremely active on Youtube, just look at the RT channel to see the next major Russian attack on the US that will be banned from social media.

      • ROBIN

        Are you aware that the Alliance For Science has been financed with over 10 million dollars from the Gates Foundation for the purpose of finding more effective propaganda to push the biotech agenda?

        • Solar Surfing

          Yes, I’m proud of that Seattle resident’s efforts that have saved millions of lives and will save millions more. And thank you for using MS software that supports the effort when you buy it. Oops, I see this thread is now infected by the Turd Miner troll’s 15 sock puppet accounts, This will be my last comment here, …

  • ed

    The courts are a new kind of Go Fund Me service,…….Oh, Ok! Now we are throwing the courts under the bus. These companies and their followers will go to great lengths defending the profiteering of putting poison on you baby’s breakfast cereal. Wow!

  • Hi OPE,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I live on an acreage in rural Saskatchewan. I rent some of my land to a farmer who farmed canola last year, some kind of wheat this year. All my neighbours farm.

    I play hockey with farmers, I’m on the local volunteer fire department with farmers and I’m a first responder, too.

    My community would be accurately described as a “farming community.”

    Glyphosate is in use all around me, by all these friends, neighbours and acquaintances.

    If glyphosate DOES cause cancer, should’t these people, and possibly even me, be the ones most affected?

    It’s only my anecdotal evidence, but I can assure you I see no cancer epidemic among the people in MY farming community.

    Is it possible glyphosate IS safe to use when used as directed?

    Paul – WP web editor

    • Sheryl McCumsey

      Interesting. I hear different from many farmers.

      • Solar Surfing

        Your anecdotal claim is trumped by this farmer who works on this unbiased site and moderates the thread. As well as this massive long term study of 54,251 US farmers who have the same cancer rates as the general public while working with glyphosate daily: https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/doi/10.1093/jnci/djx233/4590280
        You can’t touch this…….

        • Cletus DeBunkerman

          That was a cohort study. Cohorts are poor to midrange at best. They also need to be replicated before they are considered good science. About a third of the study participants could not be found to take the telephone surveys that the studies used for data. What happened to the health of all those people?

          Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer said this about this study in internal Monsanto correspondence. “Many groups have been highly critical of the study as being a flawed study, in fact, some have gone so far as to call it junk science. It is small in scope and the retrospective questioneer on pesticide usage and self reported diagnoses also from the questioneer is thought to be unreliable”

          Dr. Chadi Nabhan is an oncologist who serves as medical director of Cardinal Health and has 17 years of clinical practice and academic research focused on lymphomas says, “There are so many flaws in this study that it’s impossible to draw any conclusions,” he said. He shrugged off the updated analysis is “an updated analysis of an already flawed study.”

          This study is not a reliable indicator of glyphosate safety.

  • RobertWager

    Health Canada review of glyphosate

    The overall finding from the re-examination of glyphosate is highlighted as follows:

    Glyphosate is not genotoxic and is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk.

    Dietary (food and drinking water) exposure associated with the use
    of glyphosate is not expected to pose a risk of concern to human health.

    Occupational and residential risks associated with the use of
    glyphosate are not of concern, provided that updated label instructions
    are followed.

    The environmental assessment concluded that spray buffer zones are
    necessary to mitigate potential risks to non-target species (for example, vegetation near treated areas, aquatic invertebrates and fish) from spray drift.

    When used according to revised label directions, glyphosate
    products are not expected to pose risks of concern to the environment.

    All registered glyphosate uses have value for weed control in agriculture and non-agricultural land management.

    All comments received during the consultation process were
    taken into consideration. These comments and new data/information
    resulted in only minor revisions to the proposed regulatory decision
    described in PRVD2015-01. Therefore, the PMRA is granting
    continued registration of products containing glyphosate with
    requirements of additional label updates to further protect human health
    and the environment.

    To comply with this decision, the required
    label changes must be implemented on all product labels sold by
    registrants no later than 24 months after the publication date of
    Re-evaluation Decision RVD2017-01, Glyphosate.


    • S.G.

      See, the thing about Health Canada is that they go by what the industry is claiming and telling them. Reviewing something means nothing. They do not do their own independent studies ever.

      • Solar Surfing

        Reviewing something can mean quite a lot. Our Canadian friends were smart enough to review the fraud Seralini’s studies and reject them.

        • ROBIN

          All that shows is how captured and corrupted our institutions have become as they support the industry agenda and ignore science that has been peer reviewed multiple times and is available for citation in the scientific literature today.

          Seralini has won two defamation lawsuits from people who have defamed him …

        • S.G.

          Except that, Seralini’s studies are NOT fraudulent so Health Canada is wrong again.

          • Solar Surfing
          • ROBIN

            The Alliance for Science is financed by more than 10 million dollars from the Gates Foundation for the purpose of coming up with better propaganda to support the biotech chemical industry agenda. The Gates Foundation held 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock as well.

          • Solar Surfing

            Thank you for reminding readers of the generosity of the worlds foremost philanthropist. And thank you for supporting his work financially by using MS software.

        • Sheryl McCumsey

          There are plenty of Canadians who do not reject the 750 studies illustrating harm with this technology. As far as Health Canada goes-I have a letter that says sodium cyanide is harmless to wildlife while this is exactly what farmers use to kill wolves. Nothing like contradicting yourself. That kind of thing is the tip of the iceberg. OH-and “conditional registrations” are interesting-in those cases Health Canada did not even expect science to be submitted lol! I doubt the moderator will post this but there you go.

    • ed

      If it is that healthy, maybe it should be added to our bottled water and breakfast cereal, baby formula and the like to enhance those products health benifits even more. Can ‘t hurt, right.

      • Solar Surfing

        Can’t hurt, or help when not used to kill weeds.

        • ed

          Have you seen the interview where the Monsanto representative said, “glyphosate is so safe that you can drink it”. The interviewer said to him……”We have some here, we can get you a glass full if you wish”, to which the rep. said, “no I don’t want to actually drink It, what do you think,….I’m stupid”. “But you said”, went on the interviewer, at which point the Monsanto rep. promptly called off the interview and walked out. Wow…not to polished at that task.

          • Hi Ed,

            I’ve heard this story told many, many times.

            A person’s unwillingness to drink something is hardly “proof” it’s dangerous, or even harmful.

            Check out the #IfItsSafeThenDrinkIt hashtag on Twitter for hundreds of examples – vinegar, mouthwash, dish soap, maple syrup, laxative, etc.

            A story from Forbes provides a little more info about the “If it’s safe then drink it” video:


            My 2¢ worth…

            Paul – WP web editor

          • Duncan DeBunkerman

            My browser blocks the video and says the link is not secure. Doesn’t really matter because the piece is industry spin. Not something I would believe with out having it double sourced from legitimate sites.

          • ed

            But the Monsanto guy lead with, “it is so safe that you can drink it” before he refused and said, “of course I am not going to drink it, do you think I’m stupid”. Hmm…

          • Solar Surfing

            Who was polished? What he thought was a legit interview turned out to be an activist ambush. He was handed an UNKNOWN LIQUID not poured in his presence. NOT walking off would be the blunder. Here a guy drinks a glass of Roundup live on camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8sgEhpHM4k

  • Solar Surfing

    Only a coincidence. And Bayer gets no immunity from lawsuits.

  • Solar Surfing

    False. Science proves that glyphosate does not and can not bio-accumulate, therefore there can be no cumulative result. We piss it out as fast as we take it in, like excess salts. What farmer’s money? If anything it is ORGANIC FARMER funded efforts that caused these lawsuits. The organic foods cartel disinformation campaign is 30 years old, their fear mongering labeling campaigns were a face plant fail and the outcome of these lawsuits will vindicate GMO science forever, guaranteed. Science truth always wins in the end. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/The-organic-food-industry-has-been-engaged-in-a-multi-decade-public-disinformation-campaign-claims-report?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright

    • Goldfinger

      Not true.

      Monsanto studies show that 30 to 35 % of glyphosate is well retained, the beta half-life of which is 7 to 14 days. That means glyphosate can circulate in your biology for about a month. Of the 30-35% approximately better than 1% bioaccumulates in all tissues highest in the bone and bone marrow. Monsanto found glyphosate caused statistically significant achromatic lesions in bone marrow over the experiments solvent controls …. The balance of the glyphosate is passed in the excreta i.e feces and urine. Some glyphosate does metabolize, 6 metabolites were found as well as 4 additional new synthetic amino acids which can also metabolize. Carcinogenic N-Nitrosoglyphosate was found to increase over glyphosate fed residues, as were others. Bottom line is that the retained glyphosate is also responsible for the destruction of the cells of glands, organs and tissues. Destroy the cells of the glands and organs and it directly affects functionality and this leads to numerous diseases

      The scientific journal Entropy, it was stated: “Contrary to the current widely-held misconception that glyphosate is relatively harmless to humans, the available evidence shows that glyphosate may rather be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.

  • walleyeman

    since when are 12 jurors, who likely have never heard of glyphosate before getting into the court room more knowledgeable that scientists about its effects.
    The scientists certainly can’t confirm one way or the other.
    But 12 people off the street do?
    It will be appealed.

  • walleyeman

    Meanwhile thousands will eat out at restaurants today and eat Talipia fish.
    Chances are these fish were produced on a fish farm.
    This is a food i will not eat again after i read about it.
    They feed it animal feces as a food along with other undesirable things.
    I have read that in eating one serving of this fish that it takes 9 months for the body to expell the fishes toxins.
    So people what is safe.

  • Solar Surfing

    That’s the old delayed reaction GMO bogeyman. Yawn…. 100% absolute safety can not and has never been proven for anything we eat or drink. Even the purest water can kill you.


Stories from our other publications