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Game’s up for Roundup

De Facto

Will the cancer case against Monsanto be enough for us to learn?

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

A man dying of cancer has won a major case against Monsanto, the makers of the famous weedkiller Roundup and its professional version, Ranger Pro. Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289 million by a San Francisco court after he claimed he was exposed to Monsanto herbicides which contain glyphosate. Monsanto, due to appeal the verdict, merged with Bayer in June this year.
Mr Johnson developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He worked as a school groundskeeper where he regularly sprayed Roundup and other glyphosate herbicide brands.
“Monsanto was undone by the words of its own scientists, the damning truth illuminated through the company’s emails, internal strategy reports and other communications,” according to a Guardian report. “The jury’s verdict found not only that Monsanto’s Roundup and related glyphosate-based brands presented a substantial danger to people using them, but that there was ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that Monsanto’s officials acted with ‘malice or oppression’ in failing to adequately warn of the risks.”
Warning signs, evident since the 1980s, were ignored. Monsanto worked ‘to create its own science to show they were safe’. “The company often pushed its version of science into the public realm through ghostwritten work that was designed to appear independent and thus more credible.”
There are at least another 4,000 cases waiting in the ‘long grass’. The claim is not just that glyphosates are cancer causing but that Monsanto covered it up. “Regulators, however, have failed to heed the warnings of independent scientists for too long, even shrugging off the findings of the World Heath Organisation’s top cancer scientists who classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.”

Mayo County Council must act
This is not just a trans-national company wake-up call. This is also local, very local. Mayo County Council (and Westport Town Council when it was in being) has allowed its staff to spray glyphosates around our streets, pavements and walkways. Over the years, staff have been dressed in ‘space suits’ as a sign of protection, but these suits are from the ‘lighthouse in a bog’ school of thinking – brilliant but useless.  
In a council embracing bio-diversity, it is time to make a public commitment against the use of glyphosates. The IFA, vocal and most effective on many matters, needs to come on board also. How wonderful if all involved in town enhancements from tidy towns to residents’ associations also refused to use glyphosates. The website lists 12 ways of getting rid of weeds without using glyphosates.
Mayo County Council could become a leader in this, just as it is to the fore in road safety, registration of derelict buildings and social-housing construction. In a country devastated by homelessness, how encouraging and refreshing to see Mayo County Council plough ahead with new homes on Tubber Hill and The Paddock in Westport.
Some shops and supermarkets in Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland have banned the sale of glyphosates in their premises. British based B&Q and Homebase are also considering pulling glyphosates from their shelves. A B&Q spokesman said: “We have a record of acting ahead of legislation where appropriate. We led the way in removing three pesticides in 2013 and neonicotinoids from our flowering plants in 2018. We offer alternatives to glyphosates and are currently undertaking a broader review of all our garden products.”
Irish shops are still pretty quiet on the issue. Are there any Mayo premises willing to take a lead?
Those interested in a more scientific study should check for a report entitled ‘Critical Review of the Effects of Glyphosate Exposure to the Environment and Humans through the Food Supply Chain’. It includes a study of the traces of herbicide found in food and in human urine. “Between 2015 and 2016, the BioCheck laboratory in Leipzig, Germany, analyzed the urine of 48 European parliamentary representatives and found traces of glyphosate in each sample. The levels of substance that have been recorded range from 0.17 to 3.5 microlitres per litre.”
God knows when, if ever, Mr Johnson will see a cent of his court award. He is not alone in his illness. Cancer has affected most Irish families. We owe a debt to those affected. Dewayne Johnson’s legacy is one of integrity. We can be part of it.