Despite mounting evidence that the world’s most widely used weedkiller is linked to a host of chronic illnesses, including cancer, Monsanto has no intention of suspending its use. In a March interview with Here & Now‘s Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant maintains the safety of Roundup, despite the World Health Organization’s declaration that the weedkiller is “probably carcinogenic.”
“Roundup is not a carcinogen. It’s 40 years old, it’s been studied; virtually every year of its life it’s been under a review somewhere in the world by regulatory authorities,” Grant told Hobson.
“So Canada and Europe just finished. Europe finished their review last year and came back with glowing colors. The Canadians were the same and now we are going through a similar process in the U.S., so I’ve absolutely no concerns about the safety of the product.”
But as most of us have come to learn, just because something was approved for market use, doesn’t make it safe. In fact, countless chemical products have been discontinued only after they wreaked havoc on people’s health; the very same chemical-laden products that were approved or reviewed by “regulatory authorities.”
Monsanto is no stranger to this kind of double-dealing.
Prior to entering the seed business, Monsanto produced polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, from 1935 to 1979. The toxic compounds were used to insulate electronics before being outlawed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to human health and environmental concerns.
Internal memos prove the seed giant knew about the toxicity of PCBs as far back as 1970 but continued production, focusing only on profit revenue; Monsanto earned $10 million off the pollutants, which are now realized to have contaminated waterways all over the world.
The toxicants, linked to cancer and adverse effects on the human immune, nervous, reproductive and endocrine systems, are known to damage aquatic organisms and wildlife, as well as humans.
The result is a string of lawsuits filed against Monsanto by multiple cities in America’s West. Seattle, Spokane, San Diego, San Jose,and Oakland have sued the seed giant over PCB contamination.
Monsanto denies all responsibility, blaming those who “mishandled” the chemicals. In the interview, Grant blamed the “former Monsanto,” arguing that the company was under different ownership during its PCB production. Grant also refutes the purported health effects of PCBs.
“We’ve been working with these cities for decades now in part of that cleanup, but we are not wholly responsible for that. There’s other people in that chain that are responsible.”
It’s probable that Monsanto will face similar legal consequences as result of its glyphosate use, the primary (and demonstrably tumorigenic) ingredient in Roundup. We just haven’t quite gotten there yet. But the good news is that regulatory agencies around the world are increasingly placing glyphosate under the microscope.
The European Parliament (EP) came close to letting its glyphosate license expire due to pressure from environmental activists. Though the weedkiller license was recently renewed by European officials, new restrictions have been applied.
The EP approved glyphosate use for another seven years, rather than the 15 that was originally requested. Officials recommended its use be limited to professionals only and advised that the weedkiller not be applied to public playgrounds and parks. The recommendations are just that, however.
While the recommendations are weak and totally ineffective for protecting public health and the environment, they are still a step in the right direction. Governmental discussions about glyphosate cannot be had without immense opposition and health concerns – a form of progress nonexistent just a few years ago.