22. ROUNDUP -- THE WORLD'S MOST POPULAR WEED KILLER
Eduardo Neaves was a healthy and happy twelve-year-old, the son of
migrant farm workers. But after swimming in a canal in Coral Gables,
Florida, he became a "total quadriplegic." The canal was contaminated
with four times the recommended-use level of Roundup, a herbicide produced
by The Monsanto Company. Toxicologists were not surprised by the
central nervous system damage that still afflicts the boy five years
after the incident but were unable to prove a connection between Roundup
and the paralysis in court.
whether Roundup can cause damage to the central nervous system may never be known.
Although Monsanto's original neurotoxicity studies were ruled invalid by the EPA
because of "extensive gaps in the raw data supporting study findings and
conclusions," there is no requirement that a new study be made. However,
Roundup is far more dangerous than the public has been led to believe. Records
of pesticide poisoning compiled over the last five years by California's Department
of Agriculture show that among some 200 pesticides widely used in the state, Roundup
has been linked to the greatest numbers of eye, skin, and internal injuries. The
EPA's own Pesticide Incident Monitoring System (which was dissolved by the Reagan
administration) recorded more than 100 cases of Roundup poisoning in 1980. Despite
its own findings, the EPA concluded the weed killer is "not a primary skin
irritant, and is only minimally irritating to the eye." That judgment was
based solely on data provided by Monsanto.
Dr. Ruth Shearer, a genetic toxicologist, charged that Monsanto's claims
about the safety of the product are dishonest because they are based
on phony studies on cancer and birth defects performed by the now defunct
Industrial Bio-Test lab (IBT). Once the nation's leading generator of
health effects studies for companies whose chemical products require
government approval, IBT was found to have conducted shoddy tests and
falsified results. Monsanto was IBT's biggest customer, according to
court documents, and was reported to be one of four chemical companies
that knew of IBT's fraudulent testing practices. One IBT executive,
Paul L. Wright, was employed by Monsanto before and after his tenure
at the testing lab. It was during Wright's stay at IBT that the lab
performed tests involving Roundup's connection to mutation in mice and
tumors in rabbits. Wright was convicted of fraudulent testing in 1983.
(The IBT story was the top "censored" story of 1982.) Despite
the known hazards, the danger is compounded by the variety of new uses
for which the herbicide is being promoted. It is applied to citrus and
grape groves in California, soybeans in the Middle West, Christmas trees
in Maine, coffee beans in Brazil, as well as crops grown for vitamins
and spices, house plants, and government forests in the Pacific Northwest.
In fact, Roundup is the world's most popular brand-name herbicide. It
is easily Monsanto's most important product, the first herbicide to
reach annual sales of $1 billion. It is marketed in 120 countries and
accounts for more than half of Monsanto's foreign sales.
Given Roundup's fraudulent approval; its significant
health and environmental hazards; and that it is the most widely used brand-name
herbicide in the world, the issue deserves significant media attention. At the
very least, Monsanto should be required to redo the studies that are now known
to be invalid.
THE PROGRESSIVE, July 1987, "Weed Killer,"
by Anthony L. Kimery, pp 20-21.