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Amid concerns about the health risks from Roundup exposure and decreasing effectiveness of the weedkiller, a new report highlights indicates that use of the product and other similar glyphosate-based herbicides has increased 20-fold nationwide over the last quarter century, and by a factor of 40 in the Midwest.
The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting released a report last week, which tracks th the use of Roundup and other glyphosate weedkillers from 1992 to 2016.
The investigators looked at data collected by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) over that time period, with 2016 being the latest year numbers were available. According to the findings, use of glyphosate-based weed killers on U.S. crops nationwide increased from 13.9 million pounds to 287 million pounds.
Nationwide, the use of Roundup and similar weed killers increased 20 times from 1992 to 2016. However, in the 12 states that comprise the Midwest, the nation’s breadbasket, the amount jumped from 4.6 million to 188.7 million pounds; a nearly 40-fold increase.
The numbers used for the reports were the low estimates of pesticide use. The actual numbers may be significantly higher.
The report also found that weeds continue to grow more and more resistant to Roundup, requiring farmers buy more and spray more on their fields. Investigators and crop experts say the resistance came when Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, began selling genetically modified corn, soybean and cotton seeds billed as “Roundup Ready” due to their resistance to the weed killer.
The patent expired in 2000, and there are now at least 40 generic versions of Roundup currently on the market.
Roundup Health Concerns
The report only looked at data on Roundup usage through 2016, and the major concerns have surfaced about the safety of the product since then, leading several countries and municipalities to ban use of glyphosate-based weedkillers, and resulting in thousands of Roundup lawsuits brought against Monsanto by individuals who indicate they have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers following exposure.
In late 2015, the World Health Organizations (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a probably human carcinogen.
Since then, more than 15,000 product liability complaints have been filed nationwide, each alleging that Bayer and it’s Monsanto subsidiary have known for decades about the link between Roundup and cancer, yet withheld warnings and continued to push for greater use of the product.
Give the widespread use of Roundup, some analysis predict that the litigation could become one of the largest mass tort cases in the nation, joining the ranks of big tobacco and asbestos.
Only three Roundup claims have gone to trial so far, and all three resulted in massive verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs, including punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer for disregarding the safety of consumers.
Following the verdict, Bayer announced that it was pursuing an appeal, and suggested to investors that the result was not indicative for how juries would respond in the remainder of the cases.
Earlier this year, a second trial began in the federal court system, where Judge Chhabria granted an unusual request by Bayer to bifurcate the proceedings, requiring the jury to first determine whether the plaintiffs have sufficient evidence that Roundup could cause cancer, prior to a second phase where plaintiffs would present evidence about Monsanto’s liability.
Although it was widely acknowledged that this format greatly favored the manufacturer, the jury found that Roundup was a substantial cause of the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis and indicated that Bayer and Monsanto should be forced to pay $80 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Most recently, a third trial concluded earlier this month in California state court, involving claims brought by a California couple who were both were diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following use of Roundup. After considering evidence in the case, the jury returned a landmark $2 billion verdict, which has sent Bayer’s share price plummeting further.
Many analysis have suggested that it will be unsustainable for the company to continue to generate similar sales for Roundup in the future, indicating that the litigation may threaten the future of the company if Roundup settlements are not reached and updated warnings are not provided to consumers about the risks associated with the glyphosate weedkiller.