Monsanto is facing lawsuits by thousand of farmers and consumers who blame their cancers on the Roundup weedkiller, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate. Now Bayer AG in Germany, which purchased Roundup last year, faces a claim that it lied to homeowners about the impact of Roundup on their gut bacteria and general health. (Bloomberg.com).
The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in Kansas City, claims that product labels on Roundup Weed & Grass Killer gave false assurances to consumers that they target an enzyme that does not exist in people or pets.
The lawsuit, which names three consumers as plaintiffs, is seeking monetary damages that are unspecified and also class action status. Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate attacks enzymes that are actually in the beneficial intestinal bacteria of humans and animals.
Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stated that Monsanto has misled thousands of consumers about the risks of glyphosate for decades. Even though the company made an effort to suppress and skew research on the chemical, the science makes everything clear.
The Roundup products in question are distributed by Scotts Miracle Gro, which has been named as a defendant as well. Two other lawsuits in Washington DC and Wisconsin are based upon the same arguments but are not class action lawsuits.
A spokesperson for Bayer, Daniel Childs, state by email that the lawsuit has no merit, and the company is looking forward to defending the case. A similar lawsuit that was filed by the same attorneys in Wisconsin was denied class action status because they did not prove the class members had seen the labels at all.
Scotts has not made any responses by email for comment. The CEO of Scotts, James Hagedorn, in a call with analysts in November stated that the company is entirely indemnified for any glyphosate lawsuits in their role as marketing agent.
Sales of Roundup in the United States hit $295 million 2017, according to the latest numbers available. The chemical is also the major weedkiller used for modern farming in the US. Monsanto’s’ agricultural section of business made $3.7 billion in 2017 and Roundup was most of the sales.
Bayer inherited the Roundup problem from Monsanto when it bought the company. It now is facing at least 8000 lawsuits from people who claim the weedkiller gave them cancer. Glyphosate is the most commonly used weedkiller on Earth, and is approved to control weeds on 100 crops in the US.
Last August, a state court in California awarded nearly $290 million in damages, which was later reduced to $78 million to Dewayne L. Johnson. He was a former school groundskeeper who claimed that Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The company’s share price plummeted by billions of dollars in a week.
Bayer says that US courts will eventually find that glyphosate is not responsible for the groundskeeper’s cancer. Monsanto has said for many years that glyphosate is safe.
The complaint this week focused on the alleged role of glyphosate in the intestines. Gut bacteria is a major research area, with an unhealthy gut bacteria linked to everything from depression to obesity.
Not the First Time
This is hardly the first time research has shown that glyphosate and Roundup have a negative impact on good gut bacteria and cause harmful bacteria to grow. For example, an in vitro study was carried out to look into the increase of botulism disease in cattle in the past 20 years. It was found that glyphosate was so toxic to good gut bacteria that inhibit growth of the bacterium clostridium botulinum, but was non toxic to the botulism causing bacteria themselves. In summary, glyphosate favored the growth of the bacteria that causes botulism. The authors of the study concluded that the ingestion of residues from Roundup in the feed for the cattle could cause cattle to get ill with botulism. (Detoxproject.org).
In another in vitro study on bacteria strains in the gut of poultry, most pathogenic bacteria that was tested was very resistant to Roundup. But a large amount of the most beneficial gut bacteria were found to be highly susceptible. Researchers noted the antibiotic damage that was done to the good bacteria in the gut by low concentrations of Roundup. This allowed overgrowth of major pathogens, including clostridium botulinum, Salmonella spp and E. coli.
The authors concluded that ingesting feed that was contaminated with Roundup could be a factor in encouraging poultry to get diseases that are caused by Clostridium botulinum. It also might explain the contamination of poultry products with Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, which can make humans very ill.
It could be that glyphosate and the negative effects of Roundup on gut bacteria could lead to other toxic effects that are seen in human and animal studies on these substances. In humans, gut bacteria that is disturbed is most often found in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, malnutrition and diarrhea.
Roundup Also Linked to Modern Diseases
Another study looked at the known ability of glyphosate to disrupt gut bacteria and to suppress key enzymes that play a vital role in the detoxification of harmful chemicals could cause a rise in various modern human disease. Authors of the study concluded that glyphosate may encourage the damaging aspects of foodborne chemical residues.
The authors focused mostly on celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It also drew possible links to glyphosate toxicity and other disease, such as ADHD, autism, infertility and birth defects.
If this pathway to so many modern diseases is confirmed by more research, it stresses the failure of the industry to consider any aspect of the toxicity of glyphosate other than the well known shikimate pathway. This is what plants have but humans and animals do not. Research pointed out that gut bacteria do have this pathway, and can be harmed by glyphosate, with the disruptions in the health of gut bacteria possibly affecting human and animal health.
Glyphosate Also Can Disrupt Honey Bee Gut Bacteria
A group of researchers in Texas has found that glyphosate can harm honeybees indirectly by damaging the bacteria in their guts. The scientists think this could explain a decline in the honeybee population observed in the last 10 years. The conclusions of the study found that honeybees with damages gut flora could be malnourished and subject to more infections. These findings, along with data that showed glyphosate can damage soil bacteria and gather in bee honey and hives, show that researchers probably should look at whether off target effects of Roundup could be a part in the decline of the honeybee population. (ACS.org).
- Roundup Attacks Gut Bacteria in People and Pets, Lawsuit Alleges. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-13/roundup-attacks-gut-bacteria-in-people-and-pets-lawsuit-alleges
- Glyphosate and Roundup Negatively Affect Gut Bacteria. (2016). Retrieved from https://detoxproject.org/glyphosate/glyphosate-and-roundup-negatively-affect-gut-bacteria/
- Glyphosate Disrupts Honey Bee Gut. (2018). Retrieved from https://cen.acs.org/environment/pesticides/Glyphosate-disrupts-honey-bee-gut/96/web/2018/09