Roundup: Win Some, Lose Some or Stick Your Head in the Sand

Why would the Wine Institute shun so many professional opinions that link glyphosate to autism, developmental issues, liver disease and cancer risks? Honestly, why?”

Organic Wines Uncorked by Pam Strayer

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Roundup: Win Some, Lose Some or Stick Your Head in the Sand


Glyphosate use in Sonoma County vineyards according to California Dept. Of Pesticide Regulations.

The big news today is that Bayer agreed to settle many of its Roundup lawsuits for $10 billion. According to the New York Times, the settlement covers up to 95,000 cases. Writing for the New York Times was business (not health) reporter, Patricia Cohen.

Shockingly (to me), “Individuals, depending on the strength of their cases, will receive payments of $5,000 to $250,000, according to two people close to the negotiations,” the paper wrote.

The first plaintiff, Vallejo school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was awarded $298 million which was later reduced by the judge to $78.

Sonoma County resident Edwin Hardeman’s award was reduced to $25 million.

Judge Chhabria oversaw the Hardeman case; Mr. Hardeman (left) got cancer after
regularly using Roundup to kill poison oak on his Sonoma property

Both are in stark contrast to the $2 billion the jury awarded in Oakland to the Pilliods, grandparents who live in Contra Costa County. However, the judge reduced that to $87 million.

Still, these three judgments are orders of magnitude higher than $5,000 to $250,000, so one wonders how these figures were arrived at. If you got cancer, and it’s life threatening, $250,000 is inadequate compensation by any standard.


The Times article continues, “This week, a federal judge in California referred to the agency’s pronouncement when it ruled that the state could not require a cancer warning on Roundup, writing that “that every government regulator of which the court is aware, with the exception of the I.A.R.C., has found that there was no or insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.””

I am not sure why a federal judge (a Bush appointee) is able to dismiss the world’s leading panel on cancer – IARC – with a stroke of his pen as if the scientists involved did not represent the gold standard on cancer risk assessment.

The IARC panel included many former top US government health officials who have spent their entire professional lives studying cancer risks.

IARC is unique in that it is not a regulator and therefore not subject to political influence. The EPA and other governmental groups are lobby-able. Yet, the EPA’s very first pronouncement on Roundup in 1985 was that it was a carcinogen. That assessment was based on the same rodent studies that IARC evaluated in 2014-2015. (Strangely, this fact is omitted on the Wikipedia page about glyphosate). The initial lab testing by Monsanto was found to be fraudulent, as dead animals in the initial studies were thrown out, and the lab managers went to jail.

IARC’s assessment of the data on glyphosate and the Roundup formula (which also contains many other more toxic ingredients) was exhaustive and definitive and based on dozens of animal studies in labs that clearly show its toxicity. Population studies have also been utilized to show that heavy glyphosate users have as much as a 41% higher risk of getting cancer.

Part of the issue is that Bayer failed to warn in its labeling.

So why on earth would the company still resist labeling and litigate this in federal court?

Even Judge Chhabria in San Francisco, who was initially quite lenient with Monsanto/Bayer in early federal court hearings (I was there in the courtroom and wrote about the initial federal Daubert hearings for Civil Eats in 2018), seems to have become more alarmed. After wading through mountains of evidence, Chhabria says publicly that the herbicide manufacturer was unconcerned about the product’s effects on people.

“There’s a fair amount of evidence about Monsanto being pretty crass about this issue,” Judge Chhabria of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said when he reviewed the Hardeman verdict last summer. “Monsanto didn’t seem concerned at all about getting at the truth of whether glyphosate caused cancer.”


The verdict in the court of public opinion is in, though, and more and more wineries are being asked if they use Roundup.

“I see growers getting off of Roundup left and right,” said weed control expert John Roncoroni, who works in the UCCE’s Napa office. “Consumer preference is what is motivating them.”

Their responses have been twofold – switching to a combination of two more toxic herbicides or adopting organic weed control practices.

“They’ll switch to a combination of two herbicides to get the power of Roundup,” he said.

Despite medical evidence to the contrary, the Wine Institute still thinks glyphosate is not a problem, posting this inaccurate and outdated information on its website.

Carl Winters, now retired, is not a medical or health professional. His degree was in agricultural and environmental chemistry, not medicine. And he infamously rode out to his retirement leading a song about how he loved to spray at a professional, continuing ed workshop for Sonoma growers.

The Wine Institute has enough funds to hire a consultant who can evaluate the literature and tell them the revised level for toxic dietary effects of glyphosate on humans. It is not 140 glasses of wine per day.

Furthermore, why do they feel the need to say anything on the matter at all? They don’t put out “facts” on the toxicity of copper residues in wines, bee and bird toxins used in wine grape growing, or other health and safety matters.

The level of dietary glyphosate intake that leading scientists say is concerning is far, far, far lower than we previously thought, according to the leading scientists working at University College in London, the Ramazzini Foundation in Italyepidemiologists at UCLAUC San Diego Medical School researchers and MDs, researchers at Indiana University, and physician scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. There is a mountain of evidence in peer reviewed journals.

Why would the Wine Institute shun so many professional opinions that link glyphosate to autism, developmental issues, liver disease and cancer risks? Honestly, why?