In 2017, Monsanto was looking at yet another legal action for its glyphosate-based product Roundup. Two nonprofit organizations alleged that the company was intentionally mislabeling its weedkiller as ‘targeting enzymes that are found in plants but not in pets or people.’ The lawsuit charged that the statement by Monsanto was false, deceptive and misleading, because the enzyme that is targeted by the chemical is actually found in pets and people.
The groups Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association, through their lawyers at Richman Law Group, filed the suit in Washington DC in late 2017 under the Consumer Protection Procedures Act in the District of Columbia. The case was named Beyond Pesticides et al v Monsanto Co. et al.
According to the complaint, Monsanto is aggressively marketing Roundup as safe for animals and humans, even though there are new clinical studies that indicate glyphosate could be a carcinogen and affect animal and human health, including these systems: cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine and reproductive.
The complaint continues that reasonable consumers should rely on Monsanto to report honestly regarding Roundup’s effects on animals and humans and whether the enzyme targeted is found in pets and people. No reasonable consumer seeing such representations would think that Roundup is targeting a bacterial enzyme that is found in animals and humans that affects immune health.
The plaintiffs claimed that the company was aware that its representations were false, but profited monetarily off Roundup in any case.
Monsanto know how glyphosate works in what is called the shikimate pathway and knows about studies that show the shikimate pathway is in bacteria integral to the digestive systems of pets and people. Monsanto knows that glyphosate will target an enzyme that is present not just in plants but also in pets and people.
The complaint added that by deceiving consumers about the effects and nature of Roundup, Monsanto has been able to sell larger volumes of the product and to get a higher price for it.
The nonprofit groups are looking for equitable relief on behalf of the public, and all profits that are earned for Roundup sales in Washington DC to be put into a charitable fund to increase consumer awareness of glyphosate effects.
The chemical glyphosate has been at the center of many serious public health controversies. The chemical was added to California’s Proposition 65 list of agents that may cause cancer. In another Roundup lawsuit, court documents made the suggestion that Monsanto may have ghostwritten research that was later said to have been written by neutral academics to cover up alleged cancer risks of the chemical. Also, legal documents suggest that a top official at the EPA might have worked on the behalf of the company to quash reviews of glyphosate.
Independent clinical studies have found glyphosate residues in foods that are commonly consumed, such as crackers, cookies, popular cereals and chips. Another study found small amounts of the herbicide in cat and dog foods. Some of the brands were Purina, Friskies, Iams, 9 Lives, Kibbles and Bits, and Rachael Ray.
For its part, Monsanto has long said that the safety of its products are beyond reproach and denies that any of them cause cancer.
But according to Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, Monsanto is telling the public falsely that the product cannot harm them.
Ronnie Cummins, the international director of Organic Consumers Association, noted that for many years, Monsanto has used false labels to fool consumers into thinking they can spray Roundup in their gardens and yards without risk to themselves, pets or children. But this is not the case and the courts should step in.
He added that many surveys show that consumers rely heavily on product labels to help them to make their purchasing decisions and keep their loved ones safe. But when a company misleads on the matter of a product’s effect on consumers and their families, they put young children and others at risk.
Problems with Glyphosate
The claimed mechanism of action in glyphosate is that it is able to interrupt the shikimate pathway; this is the metabolic function in plants that allows them to get the essential amino acids they need. When the shikimate pathway is completely interrupted, the plants die. Human cells lack a shikimate pathway, which could be the basis of the claim by Monsanto that glyphosate is only targeting enzymes found in plants and not in humans.
But a shikimate pathway is found in some bacteria, and humans have millions of them in their guts. These are referred to commonly as gut flora. Gut bacteria is very important to health. It does not just affect how we digest food; it also has an effect on our immune system. Scientists think that when glyphosate gets into the human body, from eating foods or from exposure to the chemical when it is sprayed, it can cause many health problems.
Studies on glyphosate have indicated that there are higher incidences of inflammatory bowel diseases and food allergies in the last decade. According to a CDC survey, one out of 20 children are suffering from food allergies. This is a 50% higher rate than the 1990s.
There also is more incidence of eczema and other skin allergies, with rates having increased by 70%, and now affect one out of every eight children. Scientists think it is reasonable to believe that the impact of the chemical on gut bacteria could be leading to higher incidence of these health conditions.
- Monsanto Misleading Roundup Label. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ecowatch.com/monsanto-misleading-roundup-label-2357573036.html
- Monsanto Lawsuit Misleading Roundup. (2018). Retrieved from