For the second time in a year, a jury has ruled that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was a factor in causing a man’s cancer.
On Tuesday, a jury in San Francisco found that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer played a significant role in contributing to 70-year old Edwin Hardeman’s cancer. Hardeman used Roundup on his 56-acre Sonoma County property for decades before he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. The unanimous verdict concluded a trial that may determine the future of thousands of similar lawsuits filed against biotechnology giant Monsanto.
CBS News reports that U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria controversially split Hardeman’s trial into two phases, with the first phase exclusively focused on scientific facts. Judge Chhabria chose to ignore evidence of apparent corporate misbehavior by Monsanto representatives because he said it was a “distraction” from the scientific question of whether Roundup causes cancer.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been the subject of significant studies by scientific bodies all over the world. Organizations like the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have ruled that glyphosate does not cause cancer, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has ruled that it is indeed a carcinogen. Monsanto claims that studies have proven glyphosate to be safe.
In the second phase of Hardeman’s trial, Judge Chhabria asked jurors to decide whether Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing the man’s cancer. Hardeman’s lawyers called the judge’s decision to exclude evidence relating to corporate misconduct “unfair,” because the scientific evidence was connected to Monsanto’s attempts to manipulate, misrepresent, and intimidate scientists.
Judge Chhabria’s decision may have been influenced by a 2018 ruling from a California jury which found that Monsanto’s Roundup contributed to cancer in DeWayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. In that case, evidence of corporate misconduct played a key role in the jury’s decision. In August 2018, Johnson was awarded $289 million after a jury found that Monsanto failed to notify him and other consumers of the danger’s of Roundup. The verdict in that case was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal.
Bayer, the current owner of Monsanto, continues to deny allegations that Roundup, or glyphosate, is a cause of cancer. Despite these claims, a variety of studies have called attention to issues surrounding the product, including causing harm to bees.
In September 2018, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published a study claiming the popular chemical glyphosate was responsible for harming special gut bacteria in honey bees. The study, “Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and points to exposure to glyphosate as disrupting the gut bacteria, ultimately making bees more susceptible to illness. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide RoundUp.
In September 2017, the EPA released an assessment of glyphosate risks and concluded the chemical is not a likely carcinogen to humans. The EPA’s decision conflicts with a March 2015 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that found that glyphosate “probably” contributes to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans and classified it as a ‘Group 2A’ carcinogen.
The IARC report was published in The Lancet Oncology and detailed evaluations of organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. The report concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The evidence for this conclusion was pulled from studies of exposure to the chemical in the US, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
Shortly after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, shot back with their own study, claiming glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” Those studies were followed by research from experts with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO released a statement claiming glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food. The WHO co-signed the statement with the FAO. The organizations also found that glyphosate is not likely to be genotoxic—destructive to cell’s genetic material—in humans.
As of 2018, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Authority, and the United Nations say glyphosate does not pose a risk of cancer to humans. On the other end of the spectrum, the WHO’s very own International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) states that it could be linked to cancer.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.