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What Every Farmer Should Know About Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on August 28th, 2019

In the U.S., thousands of people have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup weed killer caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, the U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Roundup cases has agreed to push back several important deadlines in the bellwether process.

Removing unwanted weeds is one thing, but preventing weeds from coming back can often be a great challenge for agricultural workers. Methods of weed control are many and varied, but the use of herbicide is sometimes the only practical and selective method. Herbicides are commonly used to eliminate and prevent all susceptible plants, not just weeds.

One of the most popular weed killers used by farmers is Roundup, with glyphosate as the main ingredient. First introduced by Monsanto in 1974, glyphosate is now the active ingredient in many weedkillers and the world's best-selling chemical herbicide; more than 750 products contain it. It is commonly used in agriculture, but also in the forestry industry, cities and private homeowners in fields, lawns, and gardens. To be sufficiently clear, glyphosate may be used almost anywhere, whether in non-urban areas or in towns and cities.

If I Worked with Roundup, Am I at Risk of Cancer?

Many people exposed to Roundup most frequently, usually as part of their jobs may be at increased risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Some occupations that require using roundup herbicide include:

  • Farmer workers
  • Nursery employees
  • Forestry workers
  • Municipal weed-control workers
  • Groundskeepers
  • Landscapers
  • Professional gardeners
  • Herbicide applicators

Glyphosate can affect people when inhaled or swallowed. Direct contact can irritate the eyes and the skin. Prolonged exposure to glyphosate can affect the body's endocrine system causing problems in the liver and kidneys. Clinical studies have shown that glyphosate-exposed herbicide applicators have a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer that starts in lymphocytes, which are white blood cells and part of the body's immune system. Generally, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma develops in the lymph nodes and lymphatic tissues and it has many subtypes which are either slow-growing or fast-growing.

If you've been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you and your doctor need to think about the treatment and the risks or side effects. When deciding which treatments, your healthcare team will consider the stage of cancer, your age, and your overall health. You may be offered a combination of the following treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, target therapy, stem cell transplant, or surgery.

Has Monsanto Acknowledged That Roundup Could Be Deadly to Herbicide Applicators?

For years, Monsanto has perpetuated the myth that glyphosate is safe, biodegradable and unlikely to pose any carcinogenic risk to people. But there is a wealth of evidence that glyphosate poses serious health hazards such as possible endocrine disruption, cell death, DNA damage, cancer, birth defects, and neurological disorders. The first assessment of glyphosate's carcinogenic potential was undertaken in 1985, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2015, based on limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in experimental animals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, found that the weed-killing agent glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup is "probably carcinogenic to humans" and has been associated with cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In order to protect their image, the Monsanto Corporation vilified IARC's work as a selective "cherry-picking" of data, based on an "agenda-driven bias".

The commercialization of Roundup turned Monsanto into the largest producer of pesticides in the world. Currently, glyphosate is marketed under numerous trade names by more than 50 companies in several hundreds of crop protection products around the world. Over 160 countries have approved the use of glyphosate-based herbicide products. The agribusiness giant Monsanto has rejected any link between cancer and top-selling Roundup herbicide, affirming that 40 years of research and scrutiny by regulatory agencies around the world confirm its safety. Today, glyphosate is still promoted as "safe" despite clear evidence of the ever-growing threat to humans, ecosystems and the environment.