Despite Roundup Cancer Concerns, Herbicide Still Sprayed Directly Into California Waters: Report

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As California authorities continue to fight to place warning labels about the risk of cancer linked to Roundup and glyphosate contained in the popular weedkiller, a new report suggests that state employees continue to spray the herbicide directly into one of the main sources drinking water for residents.

Glyphosate was added to California’s Prop 65 list a little over a year ago, which requires that Roundup warning labels be added about the risk that it is a cancer causing agent. However, Monsanto has challenged the requirement and a federal judge recently granted an injunction, while the state fights to enforce the warning label update.

While state officials continues to fight to enforce the warning label update, an investigative report by the Sacramento Bee indicates that California’s Division of Boating and Waterways has continued to spray Roundup directly into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is a primary drinking water source for the state.

The Roundup applications are part of an ongoing effort to kill aquatic plants that are invasive species and risk choking the delta, entangling boat propellers and clogging drinking water pipes. Still, some say that if the state considers the chemical a concern, it should have ceased use. Yet the report indicates that the agency has sprayed more than 14,000 gallons of Roundup into the delta since 2010, and continues to do so, despite the Prop 65 listing.

The decision to add glyphosate to the California Prop 65 list came after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen in mid-2015, leading to worldwide concerns about the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

At the request of Monsanto and a number of agricultural industry groups fighting the Roundup label requirements, a California judge has placed a preliminary injunction on the label warnings, indicating that the California Attorney General has not shown that the injunction is unjust. That injunction was upheld on appeal in June, and California officials are continuing efforts to require the label for glyphosate weedkillers sold in the state.

Critics indicate that the state is being hypocritical by pushing for the warnings in court on one hand, while dumping the weed killer into the drinking water source for 25 million people on the other. It is unclear whether the activity will stop once, and if, the herbicide carries the cancer label warning, as there is no other plan to actively combat invasive plant species in the delta.

Roundup Cancer Litigation

Thousands of Roundup lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and other individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in recent years following regular exposure to Roundup, alleging that they may have avoided the cancer diagnosis if warnings and safety instructions had been provided by Monsanto.

Since October 2016, all federal cases have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.

Following extensive hearings involving expert witness testimony, Judge Chhabria determined last month that the plaintiffs’ evidence on the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma is sufficient for the cases to proceed toward trial, rejecting a motion filed by Monsanto to dismiss the litigation.

It is now expected that a small group of federal “bellwether” trials will be prepared for early trial dates, involving representative cases that will help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout thousands of separate claims.

In California state court, the first Roundup non-Hodgkins lymphoma trial is currently underway, involving a former school groundskeeper, Dwayne Johnson, who was provided an early trial date due to his grave medical condition.

As the litigation moves forward, Monsanto continues to dismiss the cancer risk associated with their widely used weedkiller, and continues to market the product as safe, without providing consumer warnings or safety instructions that may reduce the risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma from glyphosate.

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Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr Creative Commons

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