Three farmers and an agronomist in Nebraska have filed suit against agrochemical company Monsanto for including a potentially cancer-causing ingredient in its popular herbicide Roundup.
The plaintiffs alleged that Monsanto misled consumers about the safety of Roundup, which includes an active ingredient known as glyphosate. The compound has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a potential carcinogen last year.
The four Nebraska residents have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer typically associated with glyphosate.
According to the suit, Monsanto made use of falsified data to support the use of Roundup and even attacked studies that identified the dangers associated with its herbicide. The agrochemical company allegedly promoted wrong information regarding Roundup in order to convince farmers, regulatory agencies and the public as a whole that it is safe to use.
The plaintiffs also asserted that Monsanto concealed research that revealed the dangers of Roundup or systematically tried to discredit such findings.
Monsanto, however, contested allegations that its herbicide is a potential carcinogen, stating that it goes against the consensus science organizations and regulatory agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"'Probable' does not mean that glyphosate causes cancer; even at 100 times the exposure that occurs during normal labeled use glyphosate is not a human health risk," Monsanto said on its website.
Glyphosate is known to inhibit an enzyme in plants, effectively preventing their growth and development. Monsanto pointed out that since animals and humans do not have this particular enzyme, they would not be affected by the chemical especially when it is used as stated in the directions label.
Several countries around the world, including France, Sri Lanka, Bermuda and the Netherlands, have either restricted or outright banned the sale of glyphosate after having been tagged as a cancer-causing ingredient by the WHO.
In 2010, a report by the New York Times revealed that as much as 90 percent of soybeans and 70 percent of cotton and corn cultivated in the United States are produced through the use of Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr