Dying groundskeeper links Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer

In this file photo taken on July 09, 2018, plaintiff Dewayne Johnson listens as attorney Brent Wisner (out of frame) speaks about his condition during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Dying groundskeeper links Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer

  • Monsanto has denied any link with the disease and says studies have concluded the product is safe
  • Roundup has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lombardi

SAN FRANCISCO: A California groundskeeper dying of cancer said Monday he would “never” have used Monsanto weed killer Roundup, had he known it could lead to his terminal illness.
The trial pitting 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson against the agrochemical colossus is expected to last into August, with the potential for a major impact on the company recently acquired by Germany-based Bayer.
The case is the first to reach trial alleging a cancer link from Roundup, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides.
The legal clash involves dueling studies, along with allegations Monsanto connived behind the scenes to thwart potentially damning research.
Diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells, Johnson told jurors he sprayed Roundup and especially its more powerful professional grade Ranger Pro product for two years at a school in Benicia, California.
One of his lawyers, David Dickens, held a Ranger Pro dispenser in his hand as he asked Johnson whether he would have used the product if he had seen a cancer warning on the label.
“I would never have sprayed RP in schools or anywhere else,” replied Johnson, whose job as groundskeeper including ridding the area of pests and weeds with the help of up to 150 gallons (560 liters) of diluted solution per day.
Twice, a lot of product got on his skin and clothes because of a vaporizer malfunction, and Johnson experienced an “uncontrollable situation on my skin.”
He called the Monsanto hotline, but received no follow-up calls from representatives despite promises they would do so.

Johnson, who sat in court with his lawyer and wife, watched as his dermatologist Ope Ofodile testified in California Superior Court.
Ofodile testified that Johnson consulted her when he noticed a rash on his body starting in 2014.
“He was frightened by the state of his skin,” the physician told the trial.
After seeing the rash, Ofodile said she sent a letter to the school district board saying “that he shouldn’t be exposed to any airborne chemicals that could worsen his condition.”
Asked whether she was referring to Ranger Pro, she said, “Yes.”
But the physician said she did not investigate what caused the rash, and that she was focusing on treating the patient rather than establishing a link to Roundup.
Johnson had little warning about the risks of Roundup, his lawyer said in opening statements earlier this month.
“He was told you could drink it, it was completely non-toxic,” lawyer Brent Wisner claimed in his opening remarks.
The lawyer said Johnson, who is between rounds of chemotherapy, “is actually on borrowed time — he is not supposed to be alive today.”
A key to Johnson’s case will be convincing jurors that Monsanto’s pesticide — whose main ingredient is glyphosate — is responsible for the illness.
Wisner contended that glyphosate combined with an ingredient intended to help it spread over leaves in a cancer-causing “synergy.”

Whether glyphosate causes cancer has been the source of long debate among government regulators, health experts and lawyers.
If Monsanto loses, the case could open the door to hundreds of additional lawsuits against the company.
Monsanto has denied any link with the disease and says studies have concluded the product is safe.
“Mr Johnson’s cancer is a terrible disease. We all do and we all should have great sympathy for what he is going through,” Monsanto defense attorney George Lombardi said during his opening remarks.
But the lawyer maintained that “the scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr.Johnson’s cancer.”
Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup was launched in 1976.
Roundup has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lombardi.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer — a World Health Organization body — classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” and as a result, the state of California listed it as carcinogenic.
Founded in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto began producing agrochemicals in the 1940s. It was acquired by Bayer for more than $62 billion in June.


WHO: Alcohol abuse kills 3 million a year, most of them men

The logo of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured on the facade of the WHO headquarters on October 24, 2017 in Geneva. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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WHO: Alcohol abuse kills 3 million a year, most of them men

  • Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 percent were due to injuries, such as traffic accidents and interpersonal violence
  • An estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide drink alcohol, with average daily consumption of people at 33 grams of pure alcohol a day

GENEVA: More than 3 million people died in 2016 due to drinking too much alcohol, meaning one in 20 deaths worldwide was linked to harmful drinking, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
More than three quarters of these deaths were among men, the UN health agency said. Despite evidence of the health risks it carries, global consumption of alcohol is predicted to rise in the next 10 years.
“It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
In its “Global status report on alcohol and health 2018,” the WHO said that globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women are problem drinkers or alcohol abusers. The highest prevalence is in Europe and the Americas, and alcohol-use disorders are more common in wealthier countries.
Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 percent were due to injuries, such as traffic accidents and interpersonal violence. Another 21 percent were due to digestive disorders, and 19 percent due to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
An estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide drink alcohol, with average daily consumption of people at 33 grams of pure alcohol a day. This is roughly equivalent to two 150 ml glasses of wine, a large (750 ml) bottle of beer or two 40 ml shots of spirits.
Europe has the highest per person alcohol consumption in the world, even though it has dropped by around 10 percent since 2010. Current trends point to a global rise in per capita consumption in the next 10 years, the report said, particularly in Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific and the Americas.
“All countries can do much more to reduce the health and social costs of the harmful use of alcohol,” said Vladimir Poznyak, of the WHO’s substance abuse unit. He said proven, cost-effective steps included raising alcohol taxes, restricting advertising and limiting easy access to alcohol.
Worldwide, 45 percent of total alcohol consumed is in the form of spirits. Beer is the second most popular, accounting for 34 percent of consumption, followed by wine at 12 percent.
The report found that almost all countries have alcohol excise taxes, but fewer than half of them use other pricing strategies such as banning below-cost sales or bulk buy discounts.