Monsanto has been ordered by a court to pay a man $289 million because one of their products, Roundup weed killer, gave him cancer. Now, admittedly, the man used a whole lot of Roundup. He was a gardener for the school district in Solano, California. He used that stuff all the time and drove around with a tank of it on the back of his truck.
Still, his situation is not unique – probably lots of other gardeners use Roundup in huge amounts and have contracted cancer – so the payouts, if everybody pursues legal recourse, could bankrupt the company. Hard to say. It is now Bayer-Monsanto, and they are a bloody huge corporation.
There are two aspects to this case that disturb me greatly.
A) Roundup is still legal. It goes into the soil, it stays in the soil, and it causes cancer, but it’s still legal.
and B) Monsanto has known this shit was dangerous since 1983. We have no idea how many lives have been seriously foreshortened between then and now, and the executives at Monsanto don’t care.
I’m sure there are those who would defend its continued legality due to the fact that it actually does kill weeds. I can see the agricultural need for that, I suppose, although there must be less carcinogenic alternatives. But in an urban setting, i.e. the lawn around the schoolhouse, chemical weed killers are completely unnecessary. We can learn to live with a few weeds. So, our lawns will look a bit less pristine. The planet will be healthier. If you have a big house, and you want to keep your big, green lawn, then you can always hire somebody to pull the weeds. This may cost a bit more than chemical weed-killers, but that’s what’s known as trickle down economics. You pay people to do stuff.
As to its having been known since 1983, well, that is not at all a unique story in the corporate world. The oil companies have known about man-made global warming since 1959. Tobacco companies knew that cigarettes caused cancer long before the general public did, but they kept selling them, and kept promoting them.
IMHO, any executive who has this kind of knowledge and fails to make it public is guilty of murder, and should be tried as such. In other words, it should be illegal NOT to be a whistle blower.
Because killing people is very bad, and ‘it was just a job’ is not a good enough excuse.