- The Facts:In 1996, Monsanto was sued by the New York Attorney General based on its false and misleading advertising of Roundup products. Monsanto lost and agreed to stop, but to date they have not stopped those practices anywhere other than New York State.
- Reflect On:How can we use the egregious assault on our health and well-being at the hands of corporations like Bayer-Monsanto to catalyze our awakening and our motivation to build the type of world we would most prefer to live in?
In the wake of a second lawsuit against Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) ruled in favor of defendant Edwin Hardeman to the tune of $80 million, it is starting to look like Monsanto has simply gone to the well too often–a well that they themselves have poisoned. Years of denying that Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate causes cancer, years of fabricating ‘scientific’ studies to back up this claim, and years of advertising Roundup as safe when they knew it was anything but is now coming back to haunt them, and may eventually put their very survival in danger.
What is perhaps most poignant in the settlement is the fact that Hardeman received about $5 million for compensatory damages, based on the fact that his exposure to glyphosate was shown to have caused his cancer, but was awarded an additional $75 million for punitive damages, based on the fact that ‘Monsanto was negligent by not using reasonable care to warn about Roundup’s NHL <Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma> risk.’ (source)
This is telling Monsanto that their most egregious crime was not the fact that their product caused someone’s cancer, but that they intentionally withheld known dangers from the public in their labeling and promotion of the product.
How Do We Know Monsanto Has Been Lying?
How can we say for sure that Monsanto knows that it is promoting false ideas about the safety of Roundup to the public? We only need to dig a little into the case files to see the type of evidence that convinced jurors that they are doing so.
In the first case that Monsanto lost to Dewayne Johnson not too long ago (which we wrote about here and here), the prosecutor revealed that in 1996, Monsanto was sued by the New York Attorney General based on its false and misleading advertising of Roundup products. They ended up agreeing to an ‘Assurance of Discontinuance’ with New York State wherein Monsanto would stop making advertisements that made certain unsubstantiated claims about the safety of Roundup.
Here is the precise way it was presented in the complaint document of Dewayne Johnson’s lawsuit:
Monsanto has known for decades that it falsely advertises the safety of Roundup
42. In 1996, the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”) filed a lawsuit against Monsanto based on its false and misleading advertising of Roundup products. Specifically, the lawsuit challenged Monsanto’s general representations that its spray-on glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, were “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic” to mammals, birds, and fish. Among the representations of the NYAG found deceptive and misleading about the human and environmental safety of Roundup are the following:
A) Remember that environmentally friendly Roundup herbicide is biodegradable. It won’t build up in the soil so you can use Roundup with confidence along customers’ driveways, sidewalks, and fences…
B) And remember that Roundup is biodegradable and won’t build up in the soil. That will give you the environmental confidence you need to use Roundup everywhere you’ve got a weed, brush, edging or trimming problem.
C) Roundup biodegrades into naturally occurring elements.
D) Remember that versatile Roundup herbicide stays where you put it. That means there’s no washing or leaching to harm customers’ shrubs or other desirable vegetation.
E) This non-residual herbicide will not wash or leach in the soil. It…stays where you apply it.
F) You can apply Accord with “confidence because it will stay where you put it,” it bonds tightly to soil particles, preventing leaching. Then, soon after application, soil microorganisms biodegrade Accord into natural products.
G) Glyphosate is less toxic to rats than table salt following accuse oral ingestion.
H) Glyphosate’s safety margin is much greater than required. It has over a 1,000-fold safety margin in food and over a 700-fold safety margin for workers who manufacture it or use it.
I) You can feel good about using herbicides by Monsanto. They carry a toxicity category rating of ‘practically non-toxic’ as it pertains to mammals, birds, and fish.
J) “Roundup can be used where kids and pets will play and break down into natural material.” This ad depicts a person with his head in the ground and a pet dog standing in an area which has been treated with Roundup.
43. On November 19, 1996, Monsanto entered into an Assurance of Discontinuance with NYAG, in which Monsanto agreed, among other things, “to cease and desist from publishing or broadcasting any advertisements [in New York] that represent, directly or by implication” that:
A) its glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof are safe, non-toxic, harmless, or free from risk.
B) Its glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof manufactured, formulated, distributed or sold by Monsanto are biodegradable.
C) its glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof stay where they are applied under all circumstances and will not move through the environment by any means.
D) its glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof are “good” for the environment or are “known for their environmental characteristics.”
E) glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof are safer or less toxic than common consumer products other than herbicides.
F) its glyphosate-containing pesticide products or any component thereof night be classified as “practically non-toxic.”
44. Monsanto did not alter its advertising in the same manner in any state other than New York, and on information and belief still has not done so today.
One of the reasons this is so compelling is that it shows Monsanto being forced to acknowledge that it was using deceptive practices, but that it made absolutely no effort to stop this deceptive practice in any other state than the one they were forced to. It is evidence like this that is starting to make people realize that we can no longer give corporations the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their claims that their products are safe for human beings and for the environment.
As information of this kind comes more into the public eye, and as we become more aware that corporations are willfully putting public health at risk simply for the sake of profit, our collective wheels will start turning with thoughts about the type of world we want to live in, imbued with a sense of urgency around creating a system within which human safety and health are much more highly valued.
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