Court Orders Monsanto Roundup Safety Documents to be Disclosed

Monsanto is catching a lot of heat now that a court has unsealed documents that cast the company in a negative light and suggest that it was responsible for providing false assertions to the government and public regarding the safety of Roundup. As the most popular herbicide in the world, Roundup and similar products produced by Monsanto are used across the globe for the elimination of pests from lawns, crops, gardens and nurseries. It has provided research that opposes the belief Roundup’s main active ingredient can cause cancer, but the documents unsealed by the court show that these accounts were misleading and, in some cases, false.

Ghostwritten Research

The research that was presented to defend the safety of its products was in fact, ghostwritten and attributed to academics. It also claimed that a senior EPA official attempted to dismiss a report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services that the product could in fact be linked to the deaths of numerous people who suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The evidence tells a story of arguments within the Environmental Protection Agency and conflicting beliefs over whether Roundup and similar products were safe to use.

Emails between Monsanto executives and Jess Rowland of the EPA discuss an effort to disrupt the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services to make its own determination and review of the product. Rowland states in the emails that he should receive a medal if he is able to succeed in his interference.

World Health Organization Classifies Products as Carcinogenic

The growing litigation over Roundup was sparked off by the classification of Roundup as a carcinogen, due to the discovery of a link between glyphosate and cancer in animals and the destruction of DNA and chromosomes in human cells. Despite the research provided by the WHO, Monsanto went to great lengths to continue the defense of its product and to assert that it was as safe to consume as salt.

While Monsanto claims that glyphosate is safe, those who have come forward with claims against the company allege that Monsanto has repeatedly falsified research and information in order to fool the government and the public. In its defense, Monsanto has claimed that the unsealed documents are being presented out of context and that they provide isolated information. Numerous health agencies around the world have presented conflicting arguments over the safety of these products, so the science has not been settled just yet.

This post was written by Jonathan Rosenfeld of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, Copyright © 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

“The Good Wife” Defends Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Schwegman Lundberg Woessner

Last Sunday’s episode of “The Good Wife” featured a Christian mediation between a farmer (Robert Joy) sued by a Pioneer-like company, represented by the actor Richard Thomas, for saving GMO corn seed for replanting. The facts were a mash-up of J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred., 534 U.S. 124 (2001), and Monsanto Canada v. Schmeiser, 1 S.C.R. 902 (2004). In the former case, JEM was selling Pioneer’s hybrid seed that had been “saved” by farmers from a previous crop of the seed, in violation of the shrink wrap-type license on the original Pioneer seed they had purchased at JEM. In Monsanto-Canada, a farmer saved and replanted glyphosate-resistant canola seed from a field he claimed was contaminated by “GMO” pollen from neighboring fields.

In J.E.M. Ag Supply, the only defense mounted by J.E.M. was that utility patents should not be issued on plants and, fortunately, the Supreme Court disagreed, in a decision that includes both plants made by conventional breeding techniques and transgenic modifications. In Monsanto Canada, the farmer was found to have infringed Pioneer’s patents.

In the “Good Wife” episode, the farmer was accused of saving seed in violation of the agribusiness’ patents. He argued that his field had been contaminated by “seed” blown from neighboring GMO fields, but Florick Agos presented an expert witness who “testified” that such blow-over would only “contaminate” about 6% of a non-GMO crop per year. The farmer and the agribusinessman were friends and after the farmer admitted he had replanted the transgenic canola, they settled the dispute with the farmer agreeing to pay some small amount of damages, as I recall.

The major issue for patent attorneys working in the ag biotech area (and for agribusiness itself) is the public perception –despite decisions upholding the patentability of plants in the U.S. or of the transgene or the transformed plant cell in Canada—that it is wrong to patent living organisms. At the end of the “Good Wife” mediation scene, one of the parties – the preacher? – exclaims that he is shocked that plants can be patented. J.E.M. was one of the last Supreme Court decisions that expanded the scope of patent rights. The Canadian Supreme Court was divided in ruling for Monsanto. As succinctly summarized by the majority:

“Inventions in the field of agriculture may give rise to concerns not raised in other fields—moral concerns about whether it is right to manipulate genes in order to obtain better weed control or higher yields. It is open to Parliament to consider these concerns and amend the Patent Action should it find them persuasive.”

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