he recent headlines announcing billions of dollars in damages to people who have gotten cancer after using Roundup are just the tip of a very large iceberg. There are over 1,000 lawsuits against Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, waiting to be heard by the courts. Beyond concerns about that specific glyphosate-based weedkiller, we should be talking about the innumerable other potentially punishing chemicals in our food system.
After all, our food and our health are deeply connected. American healthcare spending has ballooned to $3.5tn a year, and yet we are sicker than most other developed countries. Meanwhile, our food system contains thousands of chemicals that have not been proven safe and many that are banned in other countries.
Of the European rivers tested, the Danube had the highest level of antibiotic pollution. Photograph: Nick Ledger/Getty Images/AWL Images RM
Hundreds of rivers around the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found.
Antibiotic pollution is one of the key routes by which bacteria are able develop resistance to the life-saving medicines, rendering them ineffective for human use. “A lot of the resistance genes we see in human pathogens originated from environmental bacteria,” said Prof William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter who studies antimicrobial resistance but was not involved in the study.
The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global health emergency that could kill 10 million people by 2050, the UN said last month.
The drugs find their way into rivers and soil via human and animal waste and leaks from wastewater treatment plants and drug manufacturing facilities. “It’s quite scary and depressing. We could have large parts of the environment that have got antibiotics at levels high enough to affect resistance,” said Alistair Boxall, an environmental scientist at the University of York, who co-led the study.
The research, presented on Monday at a conference in Helsinki, shows that some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. In many cases they were detected at unsafe levels, meaning resistance is much more likely to develop and spread.
Samples taken from the Danube in Austria contained seven antibiotics including clarithromycin, used to treat respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, at nearly four times the level considered safe.
Bee colonies are collapsing around the world, but local beekeepers are fighting for the tiny but mightily important insect’s future.
They’re doing it by rejecting the use of pesticides, imported pollen and ‘fake’ honey.
Simon Mulvany, a beekeper from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and founder of Save The Bees Australia, is on a mission: To help save the nation’s honey bees, and give consumers a clear choice between imported and local honey.
For the past three years, the single father has been embroiled in a legal battle with the nation’s largest honey producer, Capilano Honey, after accusing the company of selling “toxic” imported honey and passing it off as Australian.
Nimbin was a pleasant experience. Small grocery shops with beautifully arranged fruit and vegetables. A wide range of local art with me spending large on cards and prints. A tasty vegetarian breakfast of roasted vegetables and salad with haloumi and a decent hot coffee.
So disappointed to see contractors spraying grazon on our road verges and next to drains. It is still raining on and off here too.
A jury found the weedkiller Roundup had been defectively designed and its makers acted negligently. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay more than $2bn to a couple that got cancer after using its weedkiller, marking the third and largest verdict against the company over Roundup.
A jury in Oakland ruled Monday that Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, was liable for the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) cancer of Alva and Alberta Pilliod. The jury ordered the company to pay $1bn in damages to each of them, and more than $55m total in compensatory damages.
The victory for the Pilliods follows two consecutive trial wins for families taking on Monsanto over Roundup, the world’s most widely used weedkiller, which research has linked to NHL, a cancer that affects the immune system. Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, won a $289m victory in state court last year, and Edwin Hardeman, who sprayed Roundup on his properties, was awarded $80m in the first federal trial this year.
The latest verdict is the largest by far and will increase pressure on Bayer, which has suffered share price drops in the wake of the verdicts and is now facing similar lawsuits from thousands of cancer patients, survivors and families who lost loved ones to NHL.
The juries have repeatedly ruled that Roundup was defectively designed, that the company failed to warn consumers about the cancer risks, and that Monsanto has acted negligently. The cases have uncovered internal Monsanto documents that plaintiffs’ lawyers say reveal the ways in which the company has “bullied” scientists over the years and helped “ghostwrite” research defending the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup.
Trump EPA insists Monsanto’s Roundup is safe, despite cancer cases
Bayer and Monsanto have continued to argue that Roundup is safe to use and does not cause cancer. They are appealing the verdicts.
“Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” R Brent Wisner, one of the Pilliods’ attorneys, said in a statement after the verdict. “Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”
The Pilliods, who are in their 70s and live in Livermore, 40 miles east of San Francisco, used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties. In 2011, Alva was diagnosed with systemic NHL in his bones, which spread to his pelvis and spine, and Alberta was diagnosed with NHL brain cancer in 2015. Both are in remission but testified about lasting damage from the cancer.
Michael Miller, another attorney for the couple, noted that the judge in this case permitted the legal team to present significant evidence about Monsanto’s conduct, in contrast to previous trials, where evidence was severely limited.
“We were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind,” he said in a statement.
Bayer said it was “disappointed” in the decision and would appeal. The company cited the continuing approval of glyphosate by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and “the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the 40 years of extensive scientific research on which their favorable conclusions are based”.
Internal documents uncovered in the trials have repeatedly shone a harsh light on Monsanto’s close relationship with US regulators. The lawsuits began piling up after a key 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate that there are now 13,400 similar Roundup cancer cases pending in state and federal courts in the US.