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Assessing the Impact of the $289M Ruling Against Monsanto and Exploring Whether Organic Brands are Prepared

With a California court ruling that Monsanto’s Roundup chemical caused groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson to get cancer (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and ordering the company to pay $289M in damages, the reverberations have been felt around the world.

Even though many of us in organic may feel vindicated that justice is finally being served, the risks of glyphosate have been clear for quite some time. This super-toxic chemical was classified by the World Health Organization in 2015 as a “probable human carcinogen” which means that it probably causes cancer. Additionally, glyphosate is known to the State of California to cause cancer.

Given the enormity of this ruling, I wanted to give you some perspective on what this decision means and how it could impact organic food companies.

Legal Landscape

Not surprisingly, Monsanto said it will appeal this decision to the State of California Court of Appeals, yet the timetable for this appeal is uncertain.

However, another trial is expected to begin in October in St. Louis, and there are 4,000 plaintiffs who have claims pending against Monsanto, with the potential outcomes resulting in billions of dollars in damage awards.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys have said that they intend to seek the unsealing of many more internal Monsanto documents obtained through discovery. But it’s already clear in the documents we’ve seen to date that the company has had ample scientific evidence showing risks associated with its herbicides. Rather than choose to warn consumers of the risks revealed through scientific studies, Monsanto instead sought to muddy the scientific arena with a host of strategies that put its own propaganda forward disguised as independent information,” said Carey Gillam, a journalist, Research Director of U.S. Right to Know, and author of the book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science which documents Monsanto’s controversial history with Roundup

Impact Going Forward

Despite the fact that the social media world was abuzz with elation, Carey Gillam said, “I think it will take more than this one verdict to create real change. Yet, this is one more chink in the wall that powerful corporations have built with the help of regulators to protect their profits.”

And while politicians and corporations in the U.S. have barely acknowledged the ruling, the same cannot be said for those in Europe.

Henry Rowlands, an expert on glyphosate who serves as both founder of The Detox Project and Director of Sustainable Pulse, said, “The retailer and government reactions in Europe have been shocking to me, as they usually both take a while to weigh the verdicts from court cases in the U.S. However, not this time. Several of the largest retailers in the UK, including Homebase, Wilko and B&Q, stated that they have already begun a review of their glyphosate product lines.”

European governments have also expressed strong opinions.

A spokesman for the German environment ministry said on Monday that glyphosate should be halted during the current legislative period, which ends in three years. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on his Facebook page over the weekend, “We must fight the invasion of this substance in our market, a threat that exists due to monstrous commercial agreements signed only in the name of profit.”

In France, Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said on Sunday that he hoped the verdict against Monsanto would put an end to political indifference to the danger of pesticides.

What Organic Companies Need to Know

As Organic Insider has been advising for many months, organic food brands would be well served to get their supply chains tested for glyphosate, due to the fact that consumers will increasingly demand this type of transparency.

Henry Rowlands, who runs the Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification program, which is administered through The Detox Project, acknowledged that the court’s ruling has had an extraordinary impact.

“The verdict itself caused a massive boost in global interest in glyphosate testing of water, food and hair, as well as Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification for food brands. We received over 200,000 unique visits over the weekend on The Detox Project website, and we were also contacted by 52 food brands on Monday regarding our certification.”

Glyphosate is the most widely used chemical in the world, with approximately 250 million pounds sprayed annually in the U.S. and 1.65 billion pounds globally. Furthermore, results from a laboratory test at the University of California at San Francisco, one of the most respected medical schools in the country, showed that 93% of people tested had glyphosate in their urine.

The unfortunate reality is that glyphosate is everywhere, and consumers’ awareness of this super-toxic chemical is only growing, particularly because of this recent court ruling.

Despite the fact that many organic food companies may have “certification fatigue,” the issue of glyphosate contamination is not going away.

What it comes down to is whether organic brands want to deal with this problem proactively or not.

(Disclosure: I have a marketing relationship with the Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification.)

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
Modern Farmer

Are Consumers Being Deceived When Buying Organic Meat?

By Brian Barth

The massive problem of fraudulent grains from abroad is severely damaging the integrity of the organic seal, as organic meat may not be truly legitimate.

Los Angeles Times

Brazil is Trying to Ban the Sale of Organic Produce in Major Supermarkets

By Jill Langlois

The war against organic may be nowhere greater than in Brazil, where lawmakers want to eliminate organic fruits and vegetables in major supermarkets, favoring pesticide-laden produce. It is beyond shocking.

The Washington Post

CRISPR Foods are Already in the Ground, Labeled as Non-GMO

By Caitlin Dewey

It is bad enough that unproven, risky gene-edited food are already growing in the ground, but they are also being labeled as Non-GMO.

The New Food Economy

Court Orders EPA to Ban the Super-Toxic Chlorpyrifos

By Jessica Fu

Fortunately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is looking out for the health of U.S. citizens -- unlike the EPA.

Second Course
The Seattle Times

The Important Work of the Organic Seed Alliance

By Catherine Allchin

A look at how the Organic Seed Alliance is aiming to increase access to organic and savable seeds.

Star Tribune

Aldi is Overhauling its Stores, Emphasizing Fresh and Organic

By John Ewoldt

According to Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi U.S., the company will be introducing new products that satisfy its customers’ preferences for fresh and organic items.

Pesticide Action Network

Don't be Misled. In the U.S. and the World, Pesticide Use is Up

By Emily Marquez

The Pesticide Action Network takes a shocking look at our growing use of agricultural pesticides.

Third Course
The Huffington Post

7 Secrets from a Whole Foods Market Produce Manager

By Lee Breslouer

A 10-year veteran of Whole Foods spills the beans on the secrets of shopping in the produce section.

The New York Times

The Deception of 'Organic' at Organic Restaurants

By Priya Krishna

Because the USDA's National Organic Program has no guidelines when it comes to the use of the word 'organic' at restaurants, consumers are left holding the bag.

Fresh Plaza

GMO Eggplant Crop Expands in Bangladesh

By Nichola McGregor

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with Cornell and others to expand the planting of yet another risky, unproven GMO crop -- this time, it is eggplant.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Back to the Roots, an organic mushroom kit and cereal company, recently closed a round of financing, and one of its new investors is Scotts Miracle-Gro.

* Scotts Miracle-Gro is the exclusive distributor and marketer of consumer Roundup in the U.S. and Canada, and along with Monsanto, the company launched a strain of GMO-grass in Oregon, a botched experiment that has caused irreversible harm across the state.

* The Cornucopia Institute has just published a new report called The Industrialization of Organic Dairy, which shows how a USDA-backed “factory farm” takeover of organic milk production is crushing family-scale farmers and forcing them out of business.

* In conjunction with this report, Cornucopia has also released its revised Organic Dairy Scorecard.

* Congrats to Marci Zaroff, organic industry serial entrepreneur, for the launch of her new book ECOrenaissance!

* Sales and marketing agency C.A. Fortune has opened a dedicated Walmart office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

* In San Diego, Brazilian Bowls has opened its doors, an eatery that aims to serve ‘affordable organic.’

* Yogi Tea has built the very first LEED-certified tea manufacturing facility.

* In October, Kroger is collaborating in a three-and-a-half-day festival of music, educational sessions and more to support its Wellness Your Way platform, which encourages users to adopt a more holistic approach to health.

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