In 2016, a groundskeeper from California named Edwin Hardeman filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, an agribusiness company that’s since been acquired by Bayer. Hardeman had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he claimed that using the popular weed killer called Roundup for the past two decades partly led to him contracting cancer. Earlier this week, a jury agreed with his claim.
Hardeman is not the only person to make these claims against Roundup; there are currently thousands of similar cases making their way through courts across the country. Scott Nolte, an assistant professor and state weed specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service says the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was developed in the 1970s as a weed killer. He says that the chemistry of glyphosate is such that it should, in theory, only be toxic to plants, not animals or humans.
Nolte, who used to work for Monsanto, says litigation has already led to restrictions on the use of Roundup, and changes to warning labels.
Roundup is used widely in agriculture, Nolte says.
“Its use has probably increased since the mid-90s, with the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant crops,” Nolte says. “Genetic engineering has allowed traits to be inserted into crops like soybean, corn [and] cotton, and it has allowed growers and producers to use this fairly inexpensive herbicide to control a very wide range of weed species.”
Nolte says restricting the use of glyphosate would affect both agricultural users and consumers who use Roundup to remove weeds.
“A lot of times we have some very difficult-to-control weeds, especially in pastures, that, really, the only option left is … to go ahead and spot-spray with glyphosate, because there aren’t any other products that will effectively control that,” Nolte says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.