|The glyphosate panel at the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa featured (from left to right) environmental lawyer and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Zen Honeycutt (of Moms Across America), and seed saving evangelist Vandana Shiva|
"Monsanto is engaged in chemical trespass," Kennedy told the crowd, who cheered wildly when he was introduced. "I have glyphosate in my body and so does everyone in this room. We never gave that company permission to put that in our bodies."
Kennedy went on to review the history of control that Monsanto has exercised over the federal agencies that were meant to protect the public - the EPA, the CDC, and the FDA. "All of these agencies were sock puppets for this huge chemical company," he told the crowd. "They made us pay the 'externalities' of their costs and subverted our laws."
"An environmental crime is real crime," he said.
Talking about the diminished capacity of a child who has been exposed to Monsanto's pesticides and has a lower IQ because of it, he labeled such behavior child abuse. "Monsanto took away that child's capacity," he said.
Kennedy described three of the legal challenges currently underway to fight against glyphosate and Roundup, the herbicide that combines glyphosate with powerful surfactants and additives, designed to make it stick to its biological targets.
"It's not just glyphosate that is harmful, as we are finding out in the discovery phase of these lawsuits," he said, adding that the newly revealed documents show that Monsanto knew the formulation - with unrevealed additives - was more harmful than glyphosate alone. However, most of the studies used in deciding whether Roundup was safe to use or not were limited to research on glyphosate alone and not Roundup.
Kennedy provided an update on the legal actions. Two suits are currently underway, including one based in California.
CANCER LAWSUIT - NON-HODGKIN LYMPHOMA
"In the first suit, there are 3,000 to 5,000 clients." he told the crowd. "Either they or someone in their family got non Hodgkin's lymphoma from handling Roundup. These turn out to be mostly landscapers...It is more dangerous to handle Roundup than to consume it."
This case has been assigned to Superior Court in the County of San Francisco and will begin June 18 of 2018.
CLASS ACTION LABELING LAW SUIT
The other suit is a class action suit taking place in several states, including Arizona, Delaware, Missouri and Wisconsin.
"In these suits, Monsanto is being sued on the grounds that its labeling is not accurate," Kennedy explained. "The labels used on Roundup stated that it would affect enzymes in plants but not in human beings. But that is not accurate, because today we know it affects the human biome. So it's not in our cells, but it is in our guts."
PROP 65 LISTING IN CALIFORNIA
Kennedy also mentioned the Proposition 65 listing in California, which fellow panelist Zen Honeycutt explained will require that companies disclose glyphosate on the labels of foods that contain it or face daily fines of $2,500-$6,500 per day.
Currently the regulations are being written on what the allowable limits will be, Honeycutt said, adding that defining the levels is going to be difficult and very political.
More information on the documents filed in these various cases can be found at the U.S. Right to Know web site which has collected and posted the Monsanto Papers online.
ROUNDUP'S BIG BATTLEGROUND: EUROPE
Kennedy's painted a picture of Monsanto's future in crisis with EU leaders - a crisis that may ultimately be the most damaging to the company as it faces both the fight to renew its license to sell Roundup in the region as well as the challenge to gain EU approval of its proposed merger with Bayer.
"The EU is pretty upset with Monsanto right now," Kennedy said. Now that these lawsuits have brought to light extensive correspondence showing that Monsanto authored "independent" reports from government agencies, corrupted decision making inside the EPA (including Rowlands, etc.) and more, the company's credibility is in question, he said.
"For years Monsanto has been telling the EU that U.S. agencies were studying the effects of Roundup, but now the world - including the EU - can see that Monsanto was lying all the time because the U.S. government agencies were absolutely corrupted by Monsanto," he said.
"Monsanto controlled the regulatory process and derailed studies. It quashed and destroyed investigations, including by the CDC," he said.
Currently Roundup's renewal in the EU is at stake. Last week France has announced its intention not to approve Roundup's renewal. The issue will probably not be decided until after key elections in Germany and elsewhere have been held this fall.
What can citizens do? Kennedy urged Californian's to show up at Office of Environmental Health (OEH) hearings and to let the OEH and legislators hear from them with letters and phone calls.
In the Q and A portion of the public program, I asked Kennedy what he thought should be done to curb the use of 700,000 pounds of glyphosate used annually on vineyards in the Golden State. "Drink organic wine," he said, while the crowd roared its approval.