Amid Roundup Cancer Claims, UCLA Study Focuses in On California Pesticides

Amid Roundup Cancer Claims, UCLA Study Focuses in On California Pesticides

In the wake of mounting Roundup cancer lawsuits and the second multi-million dollar verdict against Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), residents across California are expressing their concerns over exposure to potentially harmful herbicides. According to new research from UCLA, those concerns may be warranted.

Researchers behind the claim allege government officials simply aren’t doing enough to protect the public, and that systemic oversight problems at the state and county level fall woefully short when it comes to pesticide permitting.

Roundup Claims Create Toxic Climate

The new study comes just days after a federal jury awarded $80 million in damages to a Sonoma County farmer who claimed Roundup was responsible for his Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer. In August of last year, a state jury handed down a massive $289 million award ($250M of which was for punitive damages) to a California county school system groundskeeper who claimed Roundup, and another Monsanto herbicide called Ranger Pro, caused his cancer.

Both verdicts included sizeable punitive damages, which differ from compensatory damages in that they’re purpose focuses more on penalizing wrongdoers for egregious wrongs and deterring others from doing the same, rather than strictly compensating victims for their suffering and losses.

While the first jury award was later reduced to $78M, and although Bayer plans to appeal, the message came through loud and clear: Californians aren’t happy with Monsanto, and they’re concerned about the consequences of the widespread use of its flagship pesticide.

Of course, there’s legitimate justification for these sentiments, especially given various studies Monsanto’s history:

  • A Probable Carcinogen – In 2017, the Who Health Organization determined glyphosate, the active chemical herbicide in Roundup, was “most likely” carcinogenic to humans.
  • Ghostwriting Research – Court documents unsealed in the NorCal farmer’s case indicated Monsanto had ghostwritten research in its favor which were later attributed to academic sources. The finding was so alarming the American Association for Justice included among its annual worst of the Worst Corporate Conduct list that year.
  • Friends in High Places – Discovery from the most recently resolved federal Roundup lawsuit also revealed Monsanto has questionable and potentially unethical relationships with people in positions of power. One piece of evidence suggested a top EPA official worked to quash a federal review of glyphosate.

These and a litany of other gripes against Monsanto certainly don’t look good, and are a major reason why there are currently thousands of pending Roundup cancer lawsuits in federal and state courts across the country. Though Monsanto may be the villain many love to hate, public fears have become very real – and for good reason, UCLA researchers say.

About the Study

The new research is part of a series of studies which evaluations California’s pesticide regulation. In collaboration with UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, School of Law, and Environment and Sustainability Institute, as well as USC Keck, researchers detail flaws in how much pesticide is used, how state regulators register pesticides, and what impact it has on the environment and humans.

Though the latest study focuses on a toxic air contaminant called chlorpyrifos, which the EPA targeted under the previous Presidential Administration, its findings resonate with the recent Roundup rulings, and reveal some concerning figures and problems.

  • The amount of pesticides being used is increasing, particularly on California crops most often treated with pesticides, such as citrus fruits, grapes, strawberries, and almonds.
  • In 2016, California used nearly 210 million pounds of pesticide on 101 million cumulative acres of land – the highest since 1998.
  • Though CA law requires county agricultural officials to make sure any pesticide applicant first explore safer alternatives, researchers noted applicants have leeway to suggest what alternatives they can “try,” only to later circle back to their pesticide of choice.
  • While the agricultural industry says alternative exploration requirements are redundant, researchers found they increase cumulative exposure, meaning exposure stemming from the simultaneous or sequential use of two or more chemicals on the same crops, which some experts say has negative effects on both land and people.

Public Safety vs. Industry Interests

The debate over pesticide use and its impact on public health is a long-waged battle. Though research is still ongoing and small-time farmers concerned about their ability to compete when they can’t sufficiently safeguard their crops, one of the biggest battles presents itself in the form of Big Business. As Monsanto has demonstrated, corporations who stake their claim on products of questionable safety can and sometimes do go to great lengths to protect their bottom line – even when there are risks to real people, and even when they know of those risks, but fail by omission or willful deceit to disclose them.

Large-scale litigation like the Roundup cancer lawsuits now pending across the country receive significant attention because they can reveal risks we don’t often think about, and because they have the potential for rulings which impact large groups us people, if not all Americans. They’re most certainly something to watch – both by the people who will be affected by their outcomes, and the corporations that have and continue to engage in conduct that harms victims, and demands accountability.

As a Los Angeles-based personal injury law firm, Biren Law Group knows the importance of holding corporations accountable when they harm the innocent – whether it’s a manufacturer that makes a defective product, a transportation company that takes unsafe short cuts, or insurance carriers that refuse to fairly compensate victims. If you have questions about your rights after a preventable injury, call (310) 896-4345 or contact us to talk with an attorney.

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