The Roundup on ‘ROUNDUP’
Does it kill more than just weeds?
Recently, agro-chemical giant, Roundup, a subsidiary of the Bayer company, was ordered to pay $289 million dollars in damages to a Californian groundskeeper, Mr. Dwayne Johnson. This landmark case was the first time that the company was ever taken to trial with the claim that Roundup caused Mr. Johnson to contract non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the blood cells. In the trial, it was noted that a number of independent investigations from the scientific community made linkages to glyphosate (the scientific name) but these studies have been buried by the company through bullying and political lobbying. Several health and regulatory companies had insisted that there were no linkages to glyphosate and cancer- and the herbicide was registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops. However, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. This would explain why Mr. Johnson is the first man to take the company to court.
In his line of work as a groundskeeper, Mr. Johnson was required to use Roundup to control weeds on school grounds, this would involve using the product sometimes several hours a day, and while he used protective gear, he was still exposed to the chemicals due to “drift”. What caught my attention to this case was the very fact that Roundup was an essential part of our farmers practices. At the height of the agricultural industry, thousands of farmers were exposed to this chemical on a regular basis and oftentimes without the appropriate protective gear. It begs me to wonder how many farmers’ health was impacted by this chemical or how many lives have been lost as a result of the constant use of these harsh chemicals.
While our farmers are becoming more knowledgeable in safer, organic approaches to their pest problems, policy approaches and regulations have not forced them towards these alternatives. Commercial products such as Roundup, still sit prominently on many of the shelves of our agricultural suppliers. Furthermore, the risks are not only borne by our farmers but also by ourselves as consumers. Glyphosate has now been tested and found in a number of foods in the global market. Without the capabilities to test the agricultural produce that goes into our food supply, how can we ensure that we are not feeding cancer-causing foods to our citizens? Even in the aftermath of this case and with many developed countries like Switzerland, Portugal and the Netherlands completely banning glyphosate- a quart of Roundup goes for about $37- $40 if you include VAT. So it begs to question- how much more would it take to ban Roundup from our shelves?
*Helen’s Daughters is a St. Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity-building. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program.
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