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Cereal Killer: Monsanto Put RoundUp in My Kid’s Cheerios?

Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2019 at 5:24 pm by Williams Hart   

Imagine yourself on a Saturday afternoon: you’re at the grocery store, pushing a heavily loaded shopping cart through a maze of long, crowded aisles. You’re anticipating a lengthy receipt. 

Leaving behind a treacherous wall of cookies and other delicious treats, you turn the corner, kids trailing behind you, and at once realize you’ve entered another minefield of questionable choices: the cereal aisle. You try to move quickly but escape proves futile. 

Suddenly, a yellow, family-sized box appears. “Please?” the small voice whines. Sigh.

“Sure”.

 What’s the harm in another week’s worth of Cheerios, anyway?

Poison for Breakfast: Are Those Cheerios Contaminated?

It turns out, there may actually be significant harm in that box on its way to your pantry. 

Since the breakfast cereal was introduced to the American diet in 1863, children and adults alike have enjoyed an estimated 160 bowls, or 10 lbs of cereal, per person–annually. With a U.S. population of nearly 300-million people today, that’s 1.35 billion kilograms a year. That’s a lot of cereal. 

Until recently, devoted consumers have remained blissfully unaware of what may be hiding in those beloved boxes of sugary goodness.

The Study

Independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group in 2018, and again in June 2019, revealed that heavy doses of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular herbicide RoundUp®️, have been found in many food products specifically marketed towards children. 

Unsafe levels of glyphosate were detected in all but two of 45 samples of oat-based food products distributed by two major companies, Quaker Oats and General Mills. Among those products, breakfast cereals consistently tested highest for glyphosate contamination. 

 

Product Type Variety Glyphosate (ppb)
Oat breakfast cereal Honey Nut Cheerios 147
Oat breakfast cereal Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal 729
Oat breakfast cereal Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios 400
Oat breakfast cereal Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon 283
Oat breakfast cereal Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch 833
Oat breakfast cereal Multi Grain Cheerios 216
Oat breakfast cereal Nature Valley Baked Oat Bites 389

(Source)

While the companies say there is no reason for concern, tests showed that 26 of the 28 samples revealed amounts of glyphosate higher than EWG’s safe upper limits. 

In another analysis, exposure to glyphosate increased the overall risk for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma by 41%.

“All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL,” the authors wrote in a study published in the journal of Mutation Research

“It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate,” said Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist and author of the report. “Parents shouldn’t worry about whether feeding their children healthy oat foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer. The government must take steps to protect our most vulnerable populations.” 

Representatives from General Mills and Kelloggs have denied that the levels of glyphosate found in their cereals are above safe limits. 

Who is the Environmental Working Group?

Founded in 1993 by Ken Cook, EWG is an American activist group and nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability. Their mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Their key issues include consumer products, cosmetics, farming, food, toxics, and children’s health. 

The Cancer Round-Up

RoundUp is an extremely popular herbicide, originally produced by agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto, and its widespread use has led to understandable concern following increased awareness about its possible carcinogenic effects.

RoundUp: Helpful Herbicide or Dangerous Carcinogen?

RoundUp and other herbicides with the active ingredient glyphosate are probably the most commonly used weed killers among farmers, foresters, gardeners, and biologists trying to control weeds. Since Roundup’s introduction in 1974 more than 9.4 million tons of Roundup have been sprayed into crops, fields, and backyards that pose a direct health risk to people across the country.

According to a report by The Guardian, “US farmers spray about 200m pounds of Roundup each year on their crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. It can also be used on produce such as spinach and almonds.”

How does it work?

Glyphosate-based herbicides all work on the same biochemical principle — they inhibit a specific enzyme that plants need in order to grow. The specific enzyme is called EPSP synthase. Without that enzyme, plants are unable to produce other proteins essential to growth, so they yellow and die over the course of several days or weeks. A majority of plants use this same enzyme, so almost all plants succumb to RoundUp.

Glyphosate is used mostly as a weedkiller on genetically modified corn and soybeans. But it is also sprayed on oats just before harvest as a drying agent, or desiccant. It kills the crop, drying it out so it can be harvested sooner, which increases the likelihood that glyphosate ends up in foods children love to eat.

Cancer Connection

The failure to warn consumers of the risk involved with RoundUp has continued in spite of the International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) listing glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen as early as 2015.  Recent court proceedings and newly published research have highlighted the possible link between Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and heavy use of RoundUp among those hard-at-work in the agricultural industry.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson filed a lawsuit against Monsanto in 2016 alleging that being exposed to the Roundup herbicide while he worked as a groundskeeper caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This was a first of its kind case which led to a unanimous verdict that Roundup’s glyphosate-based weedkiller was responsible for Johnson’s cancer.  The trial took over 8 weeks and resulted in a unanimous jury verdict that Monsanto acted with malice and should be punished for its product. 

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.” 

Jurors awarded Johnson $289 million. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial because Johnson’s health is declining and doctors said he didn’t have long to live. Dying plaintiffs in California can be granted expedited trials. 

Since then, more than 18,000 people have filed lawsuits across the country against Monsanto and are expected to go to trial in the coming years.

What is a Genetically Modified Organism? 

Monsanto’s reputation as a controversial agricultural biotechnology corporation holds a dominant position in both herbicides and genetically modified organisms, specifically seeds.. Identified more closely than any other company with the effort to introduce genetically modified organisms into the food supply, Monsanto has been the target of ongoing campaigns for more than 20 years.

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

A Threat to Wildlife 

Because RoundUp is used heavily in the agricultural industry, new studies have also been conducted to examine its effect on wildlife. Recent research has suggested that Roundup compromises the immune systems of bees contributing to a critical decline in bee populations. Roundup also caused bee larva to grow more slowly and die more frequently than normal which is thought to be caused by a disruption in the beneficial gut bacteria within bees’ stomachs.  

“We all know that glyphosate is an antibiotic. It’s very toxic to bacteria. It’s even patented as an antibiotic,” says Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But very few researchers have actually dived into this issue. The good thing is, that’s starting to change.” 

Researchers Nancy Moran, Erick Motta and Kasie Raymann suggest their findings are evidence that glyphosate might be contributing to colony collapse disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. This phenomenon has been wreaking havoc on both native and farmed honey bees for over a decade.

Cereal Offenders: Monsanto’s Controversial History

While the case against RoundUp is a concerning one, it is certainly not the first, or last, public grievance brought to Monsanto’s rap sheet. From its mistreatment of farmers, to morally questionable government lobbying, manufacturing of Agent Orange, and environmental and workplace safety issues–Monsanto’s disreputable past exudes suspicion and outright mistrust by the public. And rightfully so. 

Beginnings

Founded in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri by pharmaceutical industry veteran John Francis Queeny, Monsanto began as a chemical company whose first products were commodity food additives, such as the artificial sweetener saccharin, caffeine and vanillin. 

Over a Century of White Collar Crime

Monsanto expanded rapidly throughout the 20th century, making a name for itself as, according to many advocacy groups, “the most evil corporation in the world”.

  • 1940. Monsanto produces polystyrene, the main component in Styrofoam, which creates large amounts of hazardous waste during manufacture.
  • 1945. Monsanto begins manufacturing toxic agricultural chemicals like 2,4-D, later used in Agent Orange. It also produces DDT.
  • 1956. The U.S. Navy refuses to purchase Monsanto’s hydraulic fluid after safety tests associate it with “definite liver damage.”
  • 1976. Monsanto introduces RoundUp, a synthetic chemical herbicide whose overuse soon creates glyphosate-resistant superweeds.
  • 1984. Monsanto pays millions to Vietnam War veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.
  • 1990s. Monsanto takes 5th among U.S. corporations in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.
  • 1994. Monsanto introduces recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production, despite numerous adverse health concerns.
  • 1996. Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready soybeans, the company’s first genetically modified, pesticide-promoting seed, and the first GE insect-resistant cotton, which produces its own insecticide. Scientists find that aspartame, an artificial sweetener developed by a Monsanto subsidiary, could pose health risks to consumers.
  • 1998. Canadian government scientists accuse Monsanto of bribe attempts in obtaining approval of the drug hormone rBGH in Canada.
  • 2002. Monsanto is fined $1.5 million for bribing Indonesian officials to skip an environmental assessment of its GE cotton.
  • 2006. A judge rules that the USDA violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to conduct even minimal investigation into whether GE “pharma crops” could harm endangered species.

 

This is just a brief summary of Monsanto’s list of unjust acts against public health.

David vs. Monsanto: Legal Battles against Farmers

Perhaps one of Monsanto’s most widely publicized controversies was its mistreatment of both domestic and international farmers.

When Monsanto introduced its first genetically modified seeds in the 1990s, it forced farmers to sign contracts prohibiting them from continuing the traditional practice of saving some of the seeds from a harvest for planting the following season. To make sure farmers were compelled to purchase a new supply of the GMO seeds for every season, the company made sure it had the right to inspect and monitor the fields of its customers. It also brought lawsuits against farmers it claimed violated the company’s policies.

This controversy was highlighted in a 2011 documentary, David vs. Monsanto.

Bayer Purchase

Monsanto was purchased in 2018 by Bayer, one of the largest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the world. 

Since then, Bayer‘s stock prices have been hit hard by the recent legal rulings regarding the RoundUp cancer lawsuits. Bayer’s total market value has plummeted to less than the price it paid for Monsanto when they purchased the company last year. People took to the streets to demonstrate against acquiring Monsanto to begin with. “Bayer has choked on Monsanto,” said Ingo Speich of German lender Deka bank. “The company risks being taken over and dismantled.” Mark Tuemmler of investors’ federation DSW said 2018 was “a nightmare for shareholders.”

As of August 9th, 2019, there have been rumors that Bayer is reportedly offering a settlement of $8 billion  for the 18,000 claims filed against the RoundUp manufacturer. That’s in the ballpark of half of $1 million for each claim filed.


2 California women file a lawsuit against Yaz

Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by Williams Hart   

Two women in California filed a lawsuit against drug giant Bayer Healthcare after suffering health problems due to taking Yasmin and Yaz, a July 12 report said.

According to the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, the plaintiffs accused Bayer of failing to warn the public of the health risk of using Yaz and Yasmin birth control contraceptive compared to its competitors. In the lawsuit, the two women both allegedly suffered pulmonary embolisms, while one also suffered from deep vein thrombosis after using Yasmin and Yaz.

As a result of a conclusion by the FDA, Bayer had to spend millions in campaigns to correct their previous deceptions and misleading the public.

Suffering from severe health conditions due to use of Yasmin or Yaz birth control pills can be devastating. At Williams Hart, our attorneys help victims of these dangerous drugs hold the pharmaceutical company responsible. So if you’ve been affected by the use of Yaz or Yasmin, call us at (800) 220-9341.


Gender Disparity in Mass Torts

Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 6:25 pm by Williams Hart   

Attorney Rob Jenner made the important point in a recent article that while women are representing more and more of the legal community in terms of law school graduates, practicing lawyers, state court judgeships, and even on the United States Supreme Court, there are still areas of leadership where women are shockingly and inexplicably unrepresented. Specifically, mass torts are an area in which a disproportionately small percentage of women are involved in leadership positions.

Mass torts deal primarily with large-scale cases involving dangerous drugs and defective medical devices, and such cases often result in enormous settlements for injured parties as well as large scale media attention. In stark contrast to most other areas of law, fewer than 10% of the attorneys involved in mass tort litigation are women, despite the fact that many of these cases involve products which are used and consumed primarily by women.

An unfortunate example of this can be seen in recent lawsuits that have been filed against Bayer AG regarding a popular intrauterine birth control device. Despite the obvious relevance and importance of the female perspective in such cases, the 35-odd plaintiff firms which met to select an executive committee for litigation produced an exclusively male group, prompting the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuits to recommend that there be female attorneys included in leadership positions.

Some of the most significant mass tort cases which have occurred in the United States over the last 20 years have involved products and devices created for and marketed exclusively toward women, driving home the point of relevant perspective. Such reasoning should not be necessary however, as there is simply no reasoning or rationale by which it can be justified today that an entire field of law be dominated by men. By identifying the gender gap in mass tort law, we can hope to address and overcome that inequality in the future.


Playing Deposition Clips at Trial

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 at 10:59 pm by Williams Hart   

Depositions are sworn testimony in lawsuit taken before trial. Deposition testimony “counts” just like trial testimony in front of a judge and jury, but often the only people present are the lawyers, the witness and a court reporter or videographer. If the person is sick, dead or otherwise unavailable to attend the trial, the videotape of their deposition may be played for the jury. Since the judge is not present some attorneys may object to certain questions if they are afraid of the answer and then later ask the judge to not allow the jury to hear the question and answer.

Some unskilled attorneys are very afraid of the questions and answers and object to virtually every question being asked. When this happens the judge will later review their objections and if he finds them to frivolous or unfounded, he will “over-rule” the objections which means the jury will be allowed to hear the question and answer. This can be problematic when the video tape is being edited for the jury to watch because the court often requires the parties to cut out the portion where the attorney says “objection.” When this happens, the video tape, unfortunately, looks choppy in between the question and the answer. The strategy may even be deliberate from some attorneys to try and create a “choppy” video for the jury by objecting to every question. Strong judges do not permit this type of gamesmanship and can punish the frivolously objecting attorney by allowing the jury to see and hear him or her making their unfounded objections. The jury will then know that the unskilled attorney is very afraid of the answer to the question and will pay close attention to it.


Attorney at Williams Hart Represents Legal Publisher in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 at 12:45 pm by Williams Hart   

The publisher of O’Connor’s legal books has filed suit against the creators of PUSH:legal, a mobile app, claiming that the content found in the app was taken directly from their texts. The complaint was filed on May 21, 2012 and asserted that the reference books available to attorneys through the PUSH:legal app contained the facts, language, citations, and cases included in several O’Connor’s books, specifically those about property, criminal, and family law.

The official complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston includes the legal demands from the plaintiff. They are seeking $150,000 for each legal book that was plagiarized by PUSH:legal in addition to related damages, court fees, and attorney costs.

Williams Hart Hart Boundas’ commercial litigation manager, Armi Easterby, is representing McClure Family LP and JMP Interests LP, the copyright holder and publisher, respectively. He and the firm believe that they have a strong case against Texas Legal Apps, Inc., the creator of PUSH:legal. Easterby has been a member of the Williams Hart Hart Boundas, LLP, legal team since 2005 and has decades of experience with commercial law.


PUSH:Legal Copyright Lawsuit

Posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 4:15 pm by Williams Hart   

As an attorney with a background in patent infringement, there are few things more important to me than protecting my clients from having their hard work stolen and used by others for profit. When an individual or business has put in the time and effort to create something, they deserve to receive the benefits of their work.

That’s why I decided to represent the publishers of O’Connor’s legal books when it came to my attention that a mobile application had used their material wholesale without their approval. Our case, which is currently pending, attempts to hold the developers of this app responsible for their willful misuse of my client’s copyright-protected material. More information on this case can be found in the July 16, 2012 publication of Texas Lawyer.


Popcorn for Thought

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 11:02 am by Williams Hart   

I read an article online a few days ago about a new advertising campaign to hit theaters.  Don’t be surprised to see ads for lawsuit abuse when you sit down to see the newest movie of your choosing at your local movie theater.  The point of this campaign, apparently, is to “educate” the popcorn-eating public about frivolous lawsuits.   What you likely won’t hear in these ads are the various state rules prohibiting the filing of frivoulous lawsuits, and the consequences for doing so to the filing party and the attorney.

In Texas, “Attorneys or parties who shall bring a fictitious suit as an experiment to get an opinion of the court, or who shall file any fictitious pleading in a cause for such a purpose, or shall make statements in pleading which they know to be groundless and false, for the purpose of securing a delay of the trial of the cause, shall be held guilty of a contempt.  If a pleading, motion or other paper is signed in violation of this rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, after notice and hearing, shall impose an appropriate sanction…upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both.”  Tex. R. Civ. P. 13.  Ample case law exists on this topic.  And most attorneys will not file lawsuits that could violate this rule.

That said, there are a handful who will, and they tend to give the entire profession a bad name.  And there are others who file lawsuits, whether or not valid, that sound ridiculous to most people.  Take, for example, a recent lawsuit filed against the Oakland A’s for excluding men in a Mother’s Day promotion.  Really?  Did the lawyer want a floppy hat from Macy’s?  No, he was obviously looking to make a buck.  The reason these cases make headlines is because they are out-of-the-ordinary.  They enrage listeners, including most lawyers.

The reason lawyers are referred to as “counselors” is because that is part of the job – we counsel people, oftentimes, to advise them they do not have a claim that we can file.  Even the sponsor of the ads to be released in theaters has a section on its website dedicated to the “most ridiculous lawsuits.”  There will always be a small number of people who will file the most outrageous lawsuits.  And some of the “facts” section is based on public perception of lawsuits.  When the worst-of-the-worst lawsuits make headline news, of course public perception is going to be skewed.

This coverage, and the ads coming to your movie theater, will take the focus far from any wrongdoing of defendants in legitimate lawsuits.  It victimizes the victims all over again.  Yes, of course there are companies who are wrongly sued.  But more often, companies are sued because they have or haven’t done something to protect someone from getting hurt.  When someone is injured or killed because of the actions or inactions of another person or a company, they or their family deserve their day in court.  It is a right granted to every citizen of this country.  I would urge the popcorn-eating public not to support organizations that are working to minimize or take away our rights.

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