To powers that be of our esteemed Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development I must ask: with all the nonstop re-configuration of how to deal with this enormous “land restitution” challenge, can you take a moment to communicate the threat posed by the widely used and popular herbicide Roundup?
Hey, I, myself, am already spreading the warning to my immediate community through my embryonic online newspaper, the Barberton-Elukwatini Guardian. But we black emerging farmers are growing in number and spread around the country, so it’s important to communicate this threat to a community that I doubt makes a habit of keeping up with the news. In fact this threat should be communicated to all farmers, black emerging or others.
Producers of the popular glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup are said to be facing as many as 85,000 lawsuits which claim that the herbicide’s main ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer. The original manufacturer, Monsanto, was bought in 2018 by Bayer.
Reuters has reported that Bayer is considering a settlement provision in the lawsuits that would bar plaintiffs’ lawyers involved in the litigation from advertising for new clients. Their report added that, while the bulk of the lawsuits are in America, there is also a wave of litigation in other countries, many of which have banned or moved to ban the herbicide.
|Dewayne Johnson: died 21/01/2020|
In the first case, heard in San Francisco on 14 August 2019, the court found that Monsanto had acted with malice and negligence in failing to warn Dewayne Lee Johnson (46), a former school groundskeeper, about the cancer risks associated with Roundup. Johnson is now suffering from late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The California court ordered the company to pay $289 million (roughly R4 billion) in damages to Johnson.
The jury found enough scientific evidence to connect Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide to Johnson’s cancer, and also found that Monsanto had acted with malice and negligence by refusing to warn people of the direct connection between glyphosate products, cancer, and a range of other illnesses, as evidenced by independent scientific studies.
US journalist Carey Gillam, Research Director for the consumer group US Right to Know, who has reported extensively on Roundup, said that, “like the tobacco companies, Roundup’s makers have long been aware of these connections”.
Gillam says, “This wasn’t about banning glyphosate, it was about warning consumers about known risks and Monsanto didn’t do any of that. They did the opposite. They tried to suppress that information, tried to hide it and tried to discredit scientists who raised those warning bells.”
“They didn’t want people to know about a ban in Europe on one of the key ingredients [glyphosate] in the Roundup products. The judge sided with them on that,” said Gillam.
“They didn’t want people to know that California had ordered companies to start putting warning labels on Roundup and other glyphosate products. The judge sided with them on that. A lot of information like that was kept from the jury and still, they came up with this huge verdict against Monsanto.”
The jury also seemed moved by the fact that Johnson had called Monsanto himself and never received an answer, added Gillam.
“He’d been diagnosed with cancer and he was worried about whether or not he should continue his job, whether he should continue spraying these products and Monsanto never got back to him and they never warned him,” Gillam says. “The jury really seemed to take issue with that.”
Johnson’s job as pest control manager of San Francisco Bay Area schools required him to spray gallons of Roundup and a similar weedkiller, Ranger Pro, up to 30 times a year. He said he was never warned of any potentially deadly effects and had particular trouble on windy days because the chemical would spray back in his face.
In another incident, a hose broke, leaving Johnson drenched in toxic liquid. He also developed a rash on his skin, reported Associated Press.
Gillam notes that the Johnson verdict is part of “a building of concern around the world about the health effects of glyphosate. Various cities and states across the US as well countries throughout the world have already taken steps to restrict or ban glyphosate products.”
Asked for comment, Monsanto’s new owner Bayer responded in part: “Bayer stands behind its glyphosate-based products and we are confident that the company will ultimately prevail in this litigation based on the extensive body of favourable science.”
Meanwhile, the Long View News Journal of East Texas, his home town, reported that Mr Dewayne Lee Johnson died on 21 January 2020. He is said to have noted that he would die before seeing his windfall payout.
How many Dewayne Johnsons do we already have in South Africa and how many more are being created? Communicate the Roundup threat NOW!
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