Something shocking happened Friday, August 10: Jurors in San Francisco decided that yes, there was enough evidence to rule in favor of a man who argued that his incurable lymphoma is the result of years of working with pesticides — specifically, Monsanto's popular weedkiller, Roundup.
This is potentially a watershed moment in pesticides and our food, confirming what many have already suspected to be true about the consequences of big agriculture in the U.S.
Mapping Shoppers' Preferences
Few things raise more red flags for grocery shoppers than the thought of pesticides and the harm that they can cause. The effect of this wariness on consumers is pretty clear: Organic produce is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. food industry, with sales increasing by double digits each year. This means that more and more shoppers are seeking out organic ingredients with the hope of a zero-exposure guarantee.
Of course, there are systems in place to protect consumers against the use of harmful levels of pesticides. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency does its part to "ensure that all pesticides used on food in the United States meet the Food Quality Protection Act's stringent safety standard," and continually evaluates the safety of each pesticide every 15 years.
Understanding Glyphosate's Role
Unfortunately, traces of pesticides are prevalent in a lot more things than just fresh produce. (For example, the FDA has reportedly found traces of a certain herbicide in common grocery items including wheat crackers, granola cereal, and corn meal.) The main chemical culprit is glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide and the key ingredient in agriculture behemoth Monsanto's weedkiller, Roundup.
In the years since it was first introduced in 1974, the herbicide has become the most popular weedkiller in the world. However, in that same amount of time, glyphosate has also been shown to increase the risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, particularly amongst agricultural workers who are frequently exposed. Unfortunately, not all studies and governmental agencies are in agreement as far as its cancer-causing properties are concerned.
The most recent development in the debate is the most concrete evidence against Monsanto yet: On Friday, jurors in San Francisco awarded $289 million to a man who argued that he got cancer from Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, over the span of his career as a school district groundskeeper. This is just one of 800 cases of patients suing Monsanto claiming that Roundup gave them cancer.
Read more about the verdict here.
While this is an extreme example, it is likely to set a legal precedent moving forward. Not to mention, this case definitely serves as a reminder to be super mindful about how we use seemingly harmless household chemicals.
For those who commonly use Roundup as a weed solution, consider where you're spraying it. Are you using it in your garden where you grow veggies that you pick and eat? Do you spray it in your grass where you frequently picnic? Are you using it around your fire pit where you make s'mores in the summer? Do you spray it on your patio where you keep your potted herbs?
If the answer to any of the above is yes, you might want to rethink where you spray.