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Black farmers go to court to stop Roundup sale




(AP Photo / Charlie Riedel, file)

ST. LOUIS (CN) A federal complaint filed on Wednesday claims Monsanto conspired to force black farmers in the Americas to purchase Roundup-resistant seeds, which forced them to rely on increasingly heavy concentrations of the herbicide at the expense of of their health.

Nationally recognized civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump and Chris Schnieders, partner of Napoli Shkolnik, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Black Farmers Association. The group is seeking an order banning the sale of the controversial weedkiller in the United States.

Abraham Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but black American farmers are still not free, Crump said in a statement. They live in slavery to Bayer Corporation and its subsidiary Monsanto, the creator and distributor of the deadly weedkiller Roundup, enslaved by their Roundup-resistant seeds.

Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, in June announced plans to set aside around $ 9.6 billion to settle claims with current plaintiffs and an additional $ 1.25 billion for future claims that the use of Roundup caused cancer.

But in July, the judge handling the case backed down from part of the proposed settlement, finding it unreasonable to bind would-be plaintiffs on the basis of old scientific findings and to withdraw the decision-making to a judge and jury.

In a statement, Schnieders called the proposed deal a cynical settlement process that leaves thousands more victims with pennies on the dollar and potential future victims with no legal recourse at all.

Monsanto, in its own statement, denied the allegations of racism.

This lawsuit is being brought by two law firms that are recalcitrant in Roundup product liability litigation and people should see this lawsuit for what plaintiffs lawyers are trying to use the media and other litigation to promote. their own financial interests, the company said. There is no basis of fact or law for the health claims in this lawsuit, as Roundup has been evaluated and approved by independent health regulators around the world, including the EPA, who have found that Roundup can be used safely as directed.

He added that farmers have many choices and select the seeds and chemicals that best meet their needs. Competition and choice are very much alive in agriculture and also benefit farmers.

Monsanto also noted that its parent company was working on resolving Roundup cases with hundreds of law firms representing approximately 125,000 claimants regardless of race or other demographics. Bayer said about 75% of the complaints have been resolved.

But Schnieders paints a different picture, saying Monsanto has tackled the vulnerability of black farmers by not educating them about the risks of using Roundup the same way they have done with others. communities and larger industrial farms.

The black farmer tends to be less literate and tends to be less financially stable or have access to credit, the lawyer said in an interview. He therefore has to buy his seeds from the local seed farm or the seed silo. And Monsanto did the rounds, and now Bayer, their parent company, has bought out all those mom and pop seed stores and they’ve filled them with Roundup Ready seeds over time, to the point where black and Hispanic farmers and other minorities are handcuffed. to the product on both.

The National Black Farmers Association says Monsanto has created a vicious cycle for rural black farmers who are forced to use the company’s Roundup Ready seeds, which produce super weeds that require the use of dangerous chemicals that need to be strengthened over time.

The group says Monsanto has restricted access to conventional seeds and deprived its members of the resources to adopt alternative practices through decades of outright, structural racism in the administration of agricultural programs.

As a result, its members are exposed to more carcinogens that lead to fatal cancers. The only way to break the cycle, according to the lawsuit, is to force Monsanto to stop selling its carcinogen.

Several countries in Europe and Asia have already banned the sale and use of Roundup. Bayers’ home country Germany has announced a plan to phase out its use by 2023.

If Roundup is banned, not only will farmers like me be safer, it will open the door for the return of the conventional seed market, John Wesley Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, said in a statement. . It would mean economic freedom from the chains that Bayer-Monsanto has placed on black farmers, and really all small farmers.

The National Black Farmers Association represents 109,000 black farmers in 42 states.

Boyd, a multigenerational farmer, believes the proposed regulation further exploits black farmers who have been forced to use Roundup in increasingly heavy amounts and who may not be diagnosed with cancer for several years.

Let’s face it, many black farmers, who are struggling to make a living from the land, work too hard and too long to notice enlarged lymph nodes or that they are more tired than usual or have lost weight, Boyd said. It is another epically cynical business move on Bayer-Monsanto’s part to hand it over to small-scale farmers again after years of profitable operation.

In its statement, Monsanto said there was no evidence of higher risks or cancer rates among black farmers.

We’re sympathetic to anyone with cancer, but the point is, the National Cancer Institute’s SEER Database says [non-Hodgkin lymphoma] the incidence for blacks is lower than that of white and Hispanic populations, and is largely unchanged over the past 17 years, despite the significant increase in glyphosate sales in the 1990s, the company said.

Concerns about the safety of herbicides rose after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, a probable human carcinogen in a 2015 report. .

Monsanto condemned the report, pointing to regulators in the United States, Canada, the European Union, Japan and Australia that have reached a mixed determination on glyphosate.

Monsanto, now Bayer, has clung to multiple determinations by US environmental protection agencies that glyphosate poses no risk to humans.

But Bayer has suffered several staggering losses in cases critical to whether glyphosate caused consumers to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In the first, a 2018 San Francisco jury awarded Bay Area field goaltender Dewayne Johnson $ 289 million after finding out that glyphosate was likely the cause of his cancer and that Monsanto deliberately failed to warn the public of the risk. This verdict was reduced to $ 78.5 million by a trial judge.

In March 2019, a federal jury awarded Sonoma County resident Ed Hardeman $ 80 million in punitive damages, finding Roundup was likely the source of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria later ruled the sentence excessive and reduced it to $ 20 million.

Then, two months later, a jury in nearby Alameda County Superior Court awarded a California couple $ 2 billion in punitive damages, later reduced to $ 86.7 million.

The amounts were reduced because the United States Supreme Court imposed constitutional limits on extremely large punitive damages.

The proposed settlement does not apply to these three verdicts, all of which have been appealed.

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