MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

The $289 Million Verdict Against Monsanto Is Scientifically Outrageous

California jurors misled by activist misinformation

DeWayneJohnsonPOOLNew/REUTERS/NewscomPOOL New/REUTERS/NewscomI am truly sorry that DeWayne Johnson is suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), but years of scientific research has determined that it is exceedingly unlikely, despite the outrageous verdict of a California jury on Friday, that he contracted NHL from using the herbicide glyphosate. Applying the relatively low standard of proof required in California civil courts that a claim is "more likely to be true than not true," the jury awarded Johnson a $289 million judgment including $250 million in punitive damages against Monsanto, the maker of the herbicide.

This is an injustice. So far every regulatory agency that has assessed the safety of glyphosate has concluded that it is unlikely to be a human carcinogen at doses at which people encounter the herbicide. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's December, 2017, draft human health risk assessment concluded that "glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." The agency's assessment additionally found "no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label."

Similarly, a 2015 evaluation of the herbicide by the highly precautionary European Food Safety Authority concluded that "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans." Another EFSA review in May covering all crops treated with glyphosate included "a risk assessment which shows that current exposure levels are not expected to pose a risk to human health."

Specifically relevant to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a long run study of more than 50,000 licensed agricultural pesticide applicators in North Carolina and Iowa published in May reported that "in this large, prospective cohort study, no association was apparent between glyphosate and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies overall, including NHL and its subtypes."

So given the reams of solid scientific evidence for the safety of glyphosate, how did the jury get their verdict so wrong? Among other things, the court allowed Environmental Defense Fund activist Christopher Portier to mislead them by permitting him to serve as an expert witness for the plaintiff Johnson.

As I reported earlier, Portier chaired the Advisory Group to Recommend Priorities for the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which recommended that the agency evaluate glyphosate. He subsequently served as an invited specialist to the IARC group that evaluated studies related to glyphosate and the risk of cancer. In 2015, the IARC issued, partly as a result of Portier's influence, a scientifically flawed monograph that classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

After he retired from National Center for Environmental Health, Portier began working in 2013 as a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an activist group that has long opposed many aspects of crop biotechnology and the use of glyphosate. In a 2014 letter to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives defending a scientifically discredited study on biotech corn, Portier listed only his affiliation with the IARC. The IARC did later disclose Portier's affiliation with EDF, but the agency apparently failed to consider the possibility that his work with anti-pesticide activist group might amount to a conflict of interest.

Just after the IARC issued its glyphosate monograph, Portier signed lucrative contracts with a couple of big civil litigation law firms to work as an expert witness asserting that glyphosate likely caused specific cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These same law firms have now lined up thousands of clients claiming that glyphosate caused their cancers.

Jurors see the sympathetic plaintiffs before them and understandably want to help them and punish those who putatively caused them harm; thus a verdict of $289 million. But the jurors do not see the substantial harms caused by the possible removal of a safe herbicide from the market including lower crop productivity, increased soil erosion, additional deforestation, lower farm incomes, increased food prices, and the deployment of more dangerous herbicides.

Given the overwhelming scientific evidence that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, it is well beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury has been badly misled into getting its verdict wrong in this case.

Disclosure: The 100 shares of Monsanto that I bought with my own money have now been sold to Bayer.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Roundup kills weeds, so it must kill humans too!

    Lefties, advocates for science. NOT

  • SQRLSY One||

    If I have brain cancer, it ***MUST*** be due to the fact that I have been wearing hats made by the deepest-pockets hat manufacturer that I can find!

    "Mad hatter" syndrome from middle ages hat-makers ingesting mercury PROVES my theory!

  • JesseAz||

    Liberals aren't satisfied with the tens of millions they've starved to death or murdered in history. Now they want to make sure Africans die from malaria due to a hippie folk song and that we don't have enough food to feed everyone in the future due to the anti-science fear mongering around glyphosate.

  • Longtobefree||

    Ban DDT, then wonder why everybody dies from malaria.
    But then, California - - - - - - - -

  • ||

    DDT has never been banned for malaria abatement.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    That's true but quite a few panels have recommended its use for Malaria abatement should be "greatly reduced".

  • DJK||

    But it is still legal to use for vector control in many parts of the world. The usefulness is decreasing in many of those places due to the emergence of DDT-resistant mosquitoes.

  • ||

    ^ This. It's still very widely used in India, but it only works as repellent anymore. The most susceptible mosquitoes had largely been killed off by the mid-1970s.

  • Sevo||

    "But it is still legal to use for vector control in many parts of the world. The usefulness is decreasing in many of those places due to the emergence of DDT-resistant mosquitoes."

    Wonderful!
    If you are restricted from using it in large doses, you are now almost *required* to use it in doses pretty much guaranteed to develop resistant strains.
    You and Square? Stuff it up your asses.

  • JesseAz||

    Well yeah, when you try to limit a chemical and not use it to completely wipe out an issue it can come back and cause stronger and better creatures/bacteria/virii. Good work!

  • Overt||

    But foreign aid that helped countries with their malaria abatement was largely withheld unless countries stopped using it as a widespread kill mechanism. Enviro-crusaders throughout the west fought with international aid agencies to keep money away from DDT control mechanisms.

  • DJK||

    To be fair, plenty of people would probably be dying from malaria even if DDT hadn't been banned. In countries where it wasn't banned, mosquitoes are becoming resistant to DDT in basically the same way that some bacteria have become resistant to some antibiotics.

  • Overt||

    No, this is not necessarily true. When foreign aid agencies disallowed using DDT in the environment to mass kill mosquitos, the use changed. Instead, countries used it inside buildings on walls to kill mosquitos in habitats, and citizens in those countries who still tried to apply it in the environment had so little that they often cut the concentration significantly. This is the perfect recipe for creating DDT resistant mosquitos.

    If the general use of DDT caused resistant mosquitos, then they would be resistant in the United States. But we conveniently wiped out malaria at the end of WWII, using DDT, before stopping. We have since moved on to more expensive stuff, but we never created a resistant strain.

  • Sevo||

    "This is the perfect recipe for creating DDT resistant mosquitos."
    Exactly!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Haha, I knew this jury decision would severely trigger Bailey. I bet it's because a couple of the jury members were not vaccinated as children.

  • Libertymike||

    + 289,000,000.00

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    But you fucking love science.

  • Sevo||

    Chipper Morning Baculum|8.14.18 @ 4:11PM|#
    "Haha, I knew this jury decision would severely trigger Bailey. I bet it's because a couple of the jury members were not vaccinated as children."

    I knew fucking ignoramuses like you would be thrilled, fucking ignoramus.

  • JesseAz||

    It should trigger any and every sane person on the planet.

  • Just Say'n||

    Michael Malice said that glyphosate is found in some vaccines and that this ruling will likely bring out the anti-vax crazies with lawsuits. Is that true or is Malice just being flippant?

  • Bill||

    I sincerely doubt that glyphosate is found in any vaccines.

  • ||

    Just after the IARC issued its glyphosate monograph, Portier signed lucrative contracts with a couple of big civil litigation law firms to work as an expert witness asserting that glyphosate likely caused specific cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These same law firms have now lined up thousands of clients claiming that glyphosate caused their cancers.

    Sounds like a racket to me.

    I would think that if you thought a huge multinational corporation was knowingly poisoning people, you wouldn't be so brazenly and openly opposing them... assuming they actually were knowingly poisoning people. I mean if the guy who invented a car that runs on water taught us nothing...

  • BYODB||


    I mean if the guy who invented a car that runs on water taught us nothing...

    That was the lesson that a hydrogen / oxygen fuel combined with your average driver is basically a recipe for armageddon, right? ^_-

  • perlchpr||

    So, dude got a huge payout because he hired an "expert witness" to lie for him?

    How convenient.

    Is this sort of thing appealable?

  • John I||

    Dude, that's all expert witnesses are in the US. So long as you meet very minimum requirements, you can basically say whatever the fuck you want.

    This is how we wind up with tons of people getting sentenced to jail based on bite mark analysis which has absolutely no scientific basis whatsoever. It's also why there are so many "expert witnesses" who make a living saying whatever their client needs them to say for the purposes of a case.

  • ||

    So long as you meet very minimum requirements, you can basically say whatever the fuck you want.

    ^ This. My old company once had occasion to hire an 'expert witness,' and when my boss asked him on one issue "what is your opinion?" he said "you're not here for my opinion. You're here to tell me what your opinion is. I'm only here to tell you whether or not I can back up your opinion with my professional expertise."

  • Libertymike||

    Well, do tell....what was his opinion?

  • ||

    That those lines did not indicate casework.

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    I worked for a few years, between stints in private practice, as in-house head of litigation for a Fortune 100 company. This answer would make me smile and write a check.

  • Echospinner||

    Sorry example of what can happen in a jury trial.

    Seriously, punitive damages? For what.

    Here is another article

    https://tinyurl.com/yden423g

  • DJK||

    Not surprised that moron jurors awarded $250M in punitive damages. I'm sure that will get knocked down substantially during appeals.

    I want to know how this dude got $39M in compensatory damages. There's no way his medical bills were that high. Cancer is expensive, but it's not THAT expensive. He was a school groundskeeper, so there's no way it was lost wages. And $39M would be exorbitant even for legal fees. So what am I missing?

  • Libertymike||

    You aren't familiar with compensation packages for California public sector employees? There is a reason why CALPERS is going broke.

  • DJK||

    Ha. They're terrible. But $39M is still well over an order of magnitude too high.

  • Libertymike||

    Another angle which you may appreciate, I know John does:

    The lawyers for the insurance companies and the re-insurance companies will be continuing to rack up those billable hours.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    California jurors misled by activist misinformation

    Doesn't this describe 90% of California tort law over the last 45 years?

  • Jerryskids||

    Yeah, I don't think the jurors were "misled" by activist misinformation, any more than a teen-age boy might be "misled" into thinking he might like looking at some pictures of nekkid women.

  • John I||

    Given the EPA says glyphosate is safe, why was this even allowed to go to a jury? It seems totally insane to say that a jury should be allowed to punish someone for using a chemical which all the American regulatory agencies claim is not carcinogenic and which is completely legal in the United States.

    This is on the order of letting people sue gun stores for selling legal firearms that are later used in shootings. Even *if* it turns out glyphosate is a carcinogen, how can Monsanto be punished for using a legal chemical that US regulatory agencies at the time it was used declared to be safe? Why do we even have regulatory agencies if their judgments are totally irrelevant when a jury of cranks wants to drop a 9 figure judgment on a corporation with a bad public image?

  • Alcibiades||

    I'm wondering if the lawyers are hoping the plaintiff(s) will settle out of court.

  • DJK||

    "Among other things, the court allowed Environmental Defense Fund activist Christopher Portier to mislead them by permitting him to serve as an expert witness for the plaintiff Johnson."

    Judges are just as stupid as juries.

  • BigT||

    See asbestos, cigarettes

  • Alcibiades||

    Is this sort of thing appealable?

    It better be.

  • Alcibiades||

    The syllogism here is:

    Roundup
    Monsanto
    Therefore evil

  • The Heresiarch||

    "Applying the relatively low standard of proof required in California civil courts that a claim is "more likely to be true than not true.""

    That's not just California. The burden of proof for civil cases in the Common Law was preponderance of evidence, and to my knowledge it's the standard in all states (certainly is in Federal cases).

  • Alcibiades||

    It's why PGE settled.

  • Rich||

    Hmm. Isn't it "more likely to be true than not true" that California causes cancer?

  • DJK||

    Re: punitive damages, CA Civil Code § 3294:

    (a) In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.

    (c) As used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:

    (1) "Malice" means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.

    (2) "Oppression" means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person's rights.

    (3) "Fraud" means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.

  • DJK||

    Seems like Monsanto has a strong argument against the punitive damages upon appeal. How could the jury have possibly thought that this amounted to malice, oppression, or fraud?

  • John I||

    Monsanto is so evil they purposefully gave people cancer, obviously

  • The Heresiarch||

    Of course this will be appealed, at a minimum for remittitur.

  • Jerryskids||

    Corporations are evil. See, this is where people get it wrong in claiming corporations will do anything for a buck, the whole reason Monsanto is in business is not to make money but to hurt people. Making money is just a happy by-product of the Evil industry. They would cheerfully poison your children, push your grandmother off a cliff and feed you to the wolves even if they didn't make a nickel off the deal.

  • BYODB||

    Well, there's also the minor fact this guy had cancer before being exposed in the first place so...yeah. 'Science' had nothing to do with it.

  • JeremyR||

    The consequences of this are going to be catastrophic. Probably leading to glyphostate bans in poor countries that already struggle to produce enough food and probably Europe.

  • BYODB||

    ...but you repeat yourself.

    ^_-

  • creech||

    During WWII U.S. Navy mandated that ships being built had to have asbestos pipe covering to prevent fires. Fifty years later, ship workers started dying from misothelioma. Couldn't sue the Navy so they started suing any manufacturer that had any asbestos in their product even if they never made marine products. My former employer was bankrupted; one plaintiff claiming he saw our trucks delivering to the shipyard. It didn't matter to the jury that the company never owned one delivery truck. And once you lost one case, you made the list of those companies named as defendants in thousands of other cases. So you settled out until the insurance ran out.

  • Echospinner||

    They did not know back then.

    In a Navy ship in WWII asbestos was the least of worries. Casualty rates were very high.

    It saved lives. Best fire resistant material available in that time.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Note also. Manufacturers of asbestos products knew long before the public did that asbestos killed workers. It was shown at trial that asbestos producers did calculations about the relative cost of losing the business, or killing the workers and paying damages. They decided to keep quiet, and kill the workers.

    That kind of evidence tends to increase the severity of judgments.

  • Aloysious||

    Disclosure: The 100 shares of Monsanto that I bought with my own money have now been sold to Bayer.

    Evil capitalist.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Jurors see the sympathetic plaintiffs before them and understandably want to help them and punish those who putatively caused them harm; thus a verdict of $289 million. But the jurors do not see the substantial harms caused by the possible removal of a safe herbicide from the market including lower crop productivity, increased soil erosion, additional deforestation, lower farm incomes, increased food prices, and the deployment of more dangerous herbicides.

    Classic case of seen vs. unseen.

  • Horny Lizard||

    But do they believe? What does their faith say? In faith we trust. It's in the schools!!

  • Horny Lizard||

    $289 million, so they must really believe. That's sacred. I'm glad we encourage that type of thinking. It's so special.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    California jury. They believe in the same things you do. If they don't mother gaia will fuck them up.

  • WinstonV||

    He misses the point. Juries don't award these kinds of damages because of science. They do it because they saw evidence that Monsanto hid information that was detrimental to it. People hate being misled. I'm sure no Monsanto witnesses offered to drink a glass of it.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Juries award these insane damages because Erin brockovich dated Richard gere and everyone knows the evil corporations are poisoning our precious bodily fluids. I'm sure the jury selection resulted in 12 people capable of tying a single pair of shoe laces... with help.

  • Sevo||

    "...They do it because they saw evidence that Monsanto hid information that was detrimental to it..."

    Cite missing, bullshitter.

  • JesseAz||

    The average idiot in California who can't get off jury duty probably doesn't understand basic science. What exactly is your claim on what monsanto hid? The 800 studies saying glyphosate is safe?

  • Juvenal||

    Baloney. Jurors are selected by plaintiff lawyers to be gullible and receptive to grandstanding and gaslighting arguments. Particularly, in cases like this, I doubt if you will ever see a PhD level scientist not dismissed as a potential juror. The law, in fact, is essentially stalled in medieval concepts of proof, as lawyers like it that way. Modern concepts of probabilistic association between an agent and an outcome should become the standard, not some vague lawyer-serving "more often than not" standard." It's all about "feelings" after all.

    Regarding being misled. It's the plaintiff lawyers who misled the jury, with a biased, bogus "expert" witness. The judge was also not doing his duty in letting such a "witness" testify. The whole case makes the US a laughinh

  • Headache||

    I will make use of the word "unlikely" as did U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's and European Food Safety Authority.

    It is unlikely that a farmer will use glyphosate unless they use Monsanto's GMO seeds. Monsanto sues farmers that store and use seed from Monsanto GMO plants. Meaning every growing season the farmer has to buy more seed from Monsanto. Quite the business model. Glyphosate is a root killer. It passes through the leaves and stems, settling in the root. It also remains in the soil making it susceptible to run off. It may very well be "unlikely" to cause cancer, but what about kidney, liver or vascular disease? After all it would be a foreign compound the human immune system would attack.

    Just some food for thought.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Just ignore the
    science
    and go with your speculations. What could go wrong?

    Glyphosate caused no changes in the rate of body weight gain, in blood, nor in kidneys or liver. The studies were conducted at doses up to 500 mg/kg ).
  • Sevo||

    BTW, ain't it great that Musk's got the Saudi royal family in line to get the 'greeny-payoffs' from the various US gov'ts?

  • Headache||

    NotAnotherSkippy|8.14.18 @ 9:05PM

    Thanks for the Link.

    The mark-up was test on dogs, the ref. (8) which I could not find.

    I don't believe I was speculating, I asked a question.

  • Sevo||

    Headache|8.14.18 @ 8:41PM|#
    'I will make use of the word "unlikely" as did U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's and European Food Safety Authority.'
    I will make use of the phrase "fucking ignoramus" as should be applied to you.

    "It is unlikely that a farmer will use glyphosate unless they use Monsanto's GMO seeds."
    Bullshit, fucking ignoramus.

    "Monsanto sues farmers that store and use seed from Monsanto GMO plants. Meaning every growing season the farmer has to buy more seed from Monsanto. Quite the business model. Glyphosate is a root killer. It passes through the leaves and stems, settling in the root. It also remains in the soil making it susceptible to run off. It may very well be "unlikely" to cause cancer, but what about kidney, liver or vascular disease? After all it would be a foreign compound the human immune system would attack."
    What a steaming pile of the politics of envy, followed by lefty innuendo, fucking ignoramus.

    "Just some food for thought."
    Just a pile of bullshit, fucking ignoramus.

  • Headache||

    thefarmerslife.com/whats-in-a-monsanto-contract/

  • JesseAz||

    Food for thought for idiots*

  • Sevo||

    "Jurors see the sympathetic plaintiffs before them and understandably want to help them and punish those who putatively caused them harm; thus a verdict of $289 million."

    Pathetic; I'm sure that ambulance-chaser John Edwards is sending this scumbag congratulations.

  • Pacific||

    As those who have actual familiarity with these cases know, Roundup has many more components than the one mentioned in this critique. There was a trial with witnesses and experts and defense lawyers and a judge and a jury. Your side lost on the facts, evidence and science.

  • FusterCluck||

    Yet the case is about glyphosate....

    Read much?

  • Sevo||

    "Your side lost on the facts, evidence and science."

    Bullshit.

  • Pacific||

    So almost all of the comments here are ad hominem re California, jurors, tort law, etc, but nothing from anyone with any apparent actual knowledge.

  • FusterCluck||

    Says the guy who doesn't even know what chemical the prosecution made it's case on.

  • Sevo||

    "So almost all of the comments here are ad hominem re California, jurors, tort law, etc, but nothing from anyone with any apparent actual knowledge."

    So you didbn't read the article?
    Gee, one more luddite ignoramus.

  • JesseAz||

    I and the defense had over 800 scientific studies defending their position. You and the idiots on the jury have emotion. Sorry dummy.

  • Sympatica||

    Bet the "judge" made a bundle on that decision. If he claims to be honest then he must be incrediboy stupid.

  • Miter Broller||

    "So far every regulatory agency that has assessed the safety of glyphosate has concluded that it is unlikely to be a human carcinogen at doses at which people encounter the herbicide."

    Are you referring to the same regulatory agencies that determined that DDT, daminozide, chlorpyrifos and others were 'safe'? Weird!

  • vek||

    I don't know about this specific chemical, because I haven't looked into it in depth, and frankly don't care to. What I do know is that tons of things were totally safe bro! Until they weren't, often 50 years later.

    That's why I tend to lean towards organic fruit/veg, and meat without antibiotics etc. It's not likely the trace amounts will kill me directly, but even small amounts of dangerous chemicals certainly aren't going to be actively GOOD for you either. Since I can afford it why not? And lots of fancy organic shit tastes better too! That said, I still eat regular shit when I feel like it too.

    Thinking one GMO tomato with pesticide on it is going to kill you is retarded, but thinking every single thing you consume for 50 years having trace amounts of poison on it is great for you is equally silly. It's probably very marginally bad for you, but likely only enough to end up a rounding error in mortality.

  • JesseAz||

    So because you choose to be ignorant you prefer a method of farming that would lead to a quarter decrease in food supply to the world. Going with you're an idiot.

  • BigT||

    He pays for the privilege of eating organic, and raises costs for the poor. Nice guy.

  • vek||

    How am I raising costs for the poor? I'm not demanding GMO corn be banned asshole! Are you trying to say that anybody who wants to have more than 4 types of deodorant is a wrecker, like Bernie???

    Buying foo-foo organic shit is no different than buying fancy anything else. There's generic store brand mustard, and then there's fancy ass mustard that costs 5 times as much... I like a particular brand from France. It is the best fucking mustard I have ever had for sausages, so I often buy that one. Does that make me evil? No. It's just the free market. So fuck off.

    As far as the poor go, what concern of mine would it be even if I didn't subsidize their preferred behavior through my own spending? NONE. So again, fuck off.

  • afk05||

    This is the best response ever. All of these pseudo libertarians who claim to support a free market are giving you shit for making free market choices that support competition and do nothing to diminish the options of others.

    No one is banning using GMO's. You all critically question everything the government, nee, democrats do, but god forbid you actually question the morality of a crony corporation that exploits government regulations and lobbying to put shareholder value on a pedestal, and then your feathers get ruffled.

    Repeat after me - we don't have a free market, we have a mixed market/cronyism/corporatist system run by an oligarchy. They don't give a fuck about us.

    I support a free market, with competition, choices, the ability for consumers to be well informed, educated and to decide for themselves. When they control the information, the science, the government, and they tell you what to think, then you should be highly critical and questioning of anything they claim is the truth. I can pay a bunch of scientists and power a study to find whatever I want as well.

  • afk05||

    Humans have piss poor foresight abilities, and we have the patience of a five year old. No one wants to wait for long-term safety data or studies, so make it now, make it fast,and then in 50 years, when we realize that at least some (but we don't know how many or which ones) of the over 80,000 man-made chemicals we have introduced into the environment (most of which don't have a materal safety data sheet) have negative health and environmental effects, then.... OOPS.

    Libertarians should support the freedom and liberty of people to have a clean and healthy environment to live in, and for people to have the freedom to choose what to consume. By forcing us to all consume GMO foods, which a few corporations have paid their own scientists to tell us are safe, not being required to tell us what is in our food, and not having the option to choose another alternative, that is far from libertarian or free market.

    You can go drink a cupful of water and roundup every morning. That's your right. But don't force me to have to consume that shit. People are not starving in other countries because they don't have enough food. We throw away enough food in this country to feed the world. They are starving because their governments suck and they have very few freedoms or liberties. We should keep this country from becoming the same, and never forget that freedom and liberty come first, above any market, any government, or any amount of money paid off to the right people.

  • vek||

    Pretty much!

    I am no hippie. I HATE hippies. But some of the health related stuff that dirty lefties are into is actually somewhat based in science, or at least makes horse sense to me. I don't think eating GMO food, or stuff with pesticides will kill be dead tomorrow. That's why I eat plenty of stuff that has both of those things going on.

    However there is a 0% chance that eating toxic poison in trace amounts on my food is GOOD for me. On the off chance that it is worse than we currently think, why not spend a few bucks more since I have the bucks to spend?

    I paid attention to all the "crazy hippies" ranting about BPA for years, while mainstream scientists said it was totally cool. I read some of the studies, watched documentaries, and came to the conclusion there was enough evidence pointing towards it fucking with our hormone levels to avoid it... Sure enough, just a couple years later mainstream science admits all the shit the hippies were ranting about.

    I'm not saying that will happen with GMO, and I definitely don't think with pesticides (effects of such poisons are reasonably well known), but it COULD happen. Just like with asbestos, lead paint, BPA, etc. I can pay to not worry about it, and that's my call to make.

  • Echospinner||

    Other than mom telling you to eat your vegetables before you got your ice cream.

    When were you forced to eat anything.

  • vek||

    I've actually read a lot on the subject, and the truth is if every acre of farm land globally was switched over to modern organic farming... We'd be producing considerably MORE food than we presently do. We could return land to lying fallow.

    That's because using modern stuff, like tractors, and still keeping it organic would overall improve output in the 3rd world so much we'd still be way ahead of where we are. Because right now half that land is being farmed like it's 5,000 BC still.

    So the whole we can't grow enough food argument is in fact BS. Not that I'm against farming with pesticides/fertilizer anyway. The supply issue thing is just not a valid argument though.

  • vek||

    I'm no hippie zealot. I think my opinion is pretty nuanced and mild. Small amounts of arsenic every day will not kill you... But it's not good for you either. Since I can afford to pay for the privilege of not ingesting trace amounts of poison, why shouldn't I? Isn't that what the free market is all about??? Also, a lot of the organic stuff is really more like just "premium" stuff anyway. Is there something wrong with buying fancy cheese from Italy that costs twice what a lesser brand does? Then what's wrong with buying organic, dick???

    The reality is we only need to grow enough food to feed everybody on earth well. If we can do that organically, and avoid some of the peripheral issues like excessive fertilizer runoff... Is that bad? I dunno. It depends on if people value slightly cheaper corn versus causing massive algae blooms like Florida is seeing now. I don't care what others do personally, but I will continue to buy some organic stuff when I want, and not when I don't want. So piss off slaver!

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Bullshit.

  • vek||

    What's bullshit? The bit about being able to grow more food organically than we do now?

    It's not actually. It's just because output is so poor in 3rd world shitholes. You could take 1,000 acres in Africa and probably quadruple its output growing organic with proper irrigation, tractors etc. You might be able to 6 fold its productivity with fertilizers/pesticides, but at present population growth rates we don't even really need to increase production that much. This is purely because they do things so poorly now. Nobody is saying modern chemical ag doesn't out produce organic, it's just that we don't really need production to be that high unless we want to overproduce or just keep costs down or whatever.

    I don't care one way or another. I'm fine with fertilizer and pesticides being used. I'm just saying that it's a mathematical fact that we don't NEED to use it to feed everybody.

  • mpercy||

    What I can't get my head around is this. Johnson was not a farmer or someone who would be exposed to Roundup regularly in huge quantities. He was a school groundskeeper, who claimed that his lethal illness was caused by spraying school grounds with a weed-killer.

    I've used Roundup to kill weeds. Gallons of it. I'm not a groundskeeper, but do have a 43-acre farm to maintain. I find it hard to imagine that anyone using it in this capacity would have significant exposure, especially if they followed best practices of gloves, mask, and eye-protection while spraying and preparing the sprayer (pouring Roundup into the sprayer).

    The studies that exposed lab animals to gross amounts didn't find cancer links. How is fairly casual exposure going to? Was he drinking it? Huffing it? What? A few drops that might splash onto your forearm when filling the spray tank are easily washed off.

    P.S. If he was dumping that much Roundup around the school, didn't anyone "think about the children?"

  • mpercy||

    What I can't get my head around is this. Johnson was not a farmer or someone who would be exposed to Roundup regularly in huge quantities. He was a school groundskeeper, who claimed that his lethal illness was caused by spraying school grounds with a weed-killer.

    I've used Roundup to kill weeds. Gallons of it. I'm not a groundskeeper, but do have a 43-acre farm to maintain. I find it hard to imagine that anyone using it in this capacity would have significant exposure, especially if they followed best practices of gloves, mask, and eye-protection while spraying and preparing the sprayer (pouring Roundup into the sprayer).

    The studies that exposed lab animals to gross amounts didn't find cancer links. How is fairly casual exposure going to? Was he drinking it? Huffing it? What? A few drops that might splash onto your forearm when filling the spray tank are easily washed off.

    P.S. If he was dumping that much Roundup around the school, didn't anyone "think about the children?"

  • mpercy||

    Squirrels.

  • afk05||

    Great point about "thinking about the children". Nope, they don't matter. As long as they have nice grass to play on, who cares if they are playing in a field of pesticides. It's not like they are more susceptible or anything.

  • signalfire||

    Did you miss the part where he was DRENCHED in it due to a hose breaking? His usage wasn't exactly the same as a homeowners would normally be.

    And this verdict is only the beginning. There's thousands of lawsuits waiting in the wings.

    Still waiting for that guy who said it was perfectly safe to drink a few quarts.

  • vek||

    If he actually got covered in the stuff, I could almost believe it is possible then.

    Plenty of chemicals that are necessary for modern society to function are pretty safe in normal quantities most people come into contact with... But getting a single massive exposure can be dangerous. I painted houses when I was younger. I used lots of nasty shit on the regular. Much of it is known to cause all kinds of health problems. I was pretty cavalier with not using gloves/masks because I knew I wasn't going to be painting the rest of my life... But people who do can have problems if they don't follow safety protocols.

    Does that mean this stuff should all be banned? Of course not. But accepting that something useful might also have side effects doesn't make one an insane hippie. Just a realist! Asbestos is awesome as fuck in some applications, but that doesn't mean it won't wreck your lungs if you breathe in too much dust.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    On asbestos, it also doesn't mean you for sure won't die of mesothelioma after a very limited, even trivial-seeming exposure.

  • vek||

    Yup. And some people are simply more sensitive to things than others. I was never bothered by chemical fumes. Like almost at all. But I know people who get dizzy and almost pass out after minimal exposure. This carries over into some people getting actually sick and or dying from levels of exposure other people would be fine with too.

  • Chad Brick||

    You are right, Ron.

    The unsustainable, air and water polluting, animal torturing, water depleting, soil depleting, species exterminating, toxic chemical belching, mouth-firmly-attached-to-the-government monstrosity that is Big Ag is guilty of a lot of things, but not glyphosate (or GMOs).

    Perhaps they'd earn a little more trust on the latter if they weren't so awful about the former.

  • MariaFolsom||

    Where were Monsanto's lawyers??! What kind of evidence they they present? Ronald Bailey should have been hired.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    So far every regulatory agency that has assessed the safety of glyphosate has concluded that it is unlikely to be a human carcinogen at doses at which people encounter the herbicide.

    Doesn't that distort the conclusions? What I seem to find are agency conclusions about what happens "when used as directed." Unless you are willing to assume—optimistically?, foolishly?— that circumstances not as directed do not routinely arise among the entire population using a chemical, that isn't a reassuring finding. Nor is it reassuring that safety assurances are confined to the question of whether a chemical is a carcinogen.

    Note also that academic toxicology labs all over the world have reached more pessimistic conclusions—especially when testing is done not just with glyphosate, but also with so-called "inert" ingredients—which are anything but inert—being added to commercial products to make the glyphosate active ingredient more toxic for its intended purpose. Some of those findings show notable cell damage to human tissue at dilutions far milder than the directed exposures.

    This article seems to be a less-than-forthright presentation of relevant information.

  • Headache||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online