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Jury awards $80 million to Sonoma County man who blamed Roundup for his cancer

Sudhin Thanawala, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal court jury on Wednesday awarded more than $80 million in damages to a Sonoma County man who blamed Roundup weed killer for his cancer, in a potential milestone case his attorneys say could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

Edwin Hardeman proved that Roundup’s design was defective, it lacked sufficient cancer warnings and its manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto, was negligent, the six-person jury in San Francisco found.

It awarded Hardeman more than $5 million in compensation and an additional $75 million in punitive damages. Hardeman, 70, put his arm around his wife, Mary, as the verdict was read and hugged his attorneys.

Monsanto said studies have established that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its widely used weed killer, is safe. The company said it will appeal.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s decision, but this verdict does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science and the conclusions of regulators worldwide that support the safety of our glyphosate-based herbicides and that they are not carcinogenic,” according to a statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year.

Hardeman said he used Roundup products to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds on his North Bay property for years. The same jury previously found that Roundup was a substantial factor in Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9438003-181/jury-awards-80-million-to?sba=AAS

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Jury finds Roundup weed killer a major factor in Sonoma County man’s cancer

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a Sonoma County man’s cancer, a jury determined Tuesday in the first phase of a trial that attorneys said could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup’s manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto. Edwin Hardeman, 70, was the second plaintiff to go to trial out of thousands around the country who claim the weed killer causes cancer.

Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe.

A San Francisco jury in August awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A judge later slashed the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed.

Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials.”

The outcome of such cases can help attorneys decide whether to keep fighting similar lawsuits or settle them. Legal experts said a jury verdict in favor of Hardeman and the other test plaintiffs would give their attorneys a strong bargaining position in any settlement talks for the remaining cases before Chhabria.

The judge had split Hardeman’s trial into two phases. Hardeman’s attorneys first had to convince jurors that using Roundup was a significant factor in his cancer before they could make arguments for damages.

The trial will now proceed to the second phase to determine whether the company is liable and if so, for how much.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9409513-181/jury-roundup-weed-killer-major?ref=moststory

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Op-Ed: Pesticide near school poses potential health risks

Megan Kaun and Nichole Warwick, SONOMA GAZETTE

As our children return to school, beauty surrounds many Sonoma County campuses, with bucolic hillsides and sprawling farmland. Yet, unseen toxicity lies within and around these rural schools. For the first time, data about this toxicity is now available to inform parents and the community.

New information about agricultural pesticide use has been released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) for ~100 public schools and preschools in Sonoma County, which lie within 1/4 mile of farms using pesticides.

This data shows us that many dangerous pesticides are in use in very close proximity to schools. It also provides us with an opportunity to engage in an informed conversation with schools and farmers.

Toxic Pesticide Use Near Sonoma County Schools

Pesticides, including weed killers (herbicides), insecticides, and fungicides, are used commonly in Sonoma County. Synthetic or man-made pesticides are long-lasting toxicants in the environment, linked to many human health problems. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxicants like pesticides. Many are known carcinogens (cancer-causing) and endocrine disruptors, which affect development and reproductive health in both males and females.

Vineyards dominate agriculture near schools, and the vast majority (around 98%) of Sonoma County vineyard land is managed using synthetic pesticides. Though the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association has a goal to certify all vineyards “Sonoma Sustainable” by 2019, certification does not require vineyards to reduce pesticide use.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/pesticide-near-school-poses-potential-health-risks

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Santa Rosa bans use of Roundup at city parks

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday banned the use of synthetic weed-killers like Roundup at dozens of parks, buildings and medians around town.

The decision came on a unanimous vote — with Mayor Chris Coursey absent and barely any audience in the council chambers — to approve a one-year extension of the contract with a company that has provided city landscape maintenance services since 2014.

But it culminated a citizen campaign, initiated three years ago, to eliminate use of synthetic herbicides on city property.

The company, Golden Gate Landscape Management, has sprayed glyphosate-based weed killer on parks and other public property under its $509,000 annual contract. The council renewed the contract, but added a prohibition on glyphosate.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8657806-181/santa-rosa-bans-use-of?ref=most

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National Heirloom Expo draws crowds at Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The goal of the National Heirloom Expo is to change the way people see and grow fruits and vegetables.
Shiny, uniform, smooth and common are out. Old varieties that at one time would have been considered homely and unworthy of a spot in the supermarket produce section are venerated by the thousands of growers, home gardeners and vendors pouring into the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa this week for the seventh annual harvest event.
They come from throughout the United States and around the world to admire odd squash, have their pictures taken in front of towers of vegetables, buy organic heirloom seeds and other gardening supplies, and listen to talks from more than 100 speakers, including environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The Kennedy family scion appeared Tuesday night on a panel discussion about the controversial weed killer glyphosate, commercially sold as Roundup and determined to be carcinogenic.
“This is to preserve our vegetable heritage and pass it on to the next generation. If we don’t do it, no one will,” said David Johansen, one of 300 farmers who grow plants to supply to Baker Creek Seed. The Missouri-based seed company is a leader in the global movement to preserve disappearing heritage varieties and the force behind the expo, now in its seventh year.
Read more at: National Heirloom Expo draws crowds at Sonoma County Fairgrounds | The Press Democrat

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Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa is the latest Sonoma County city to take a harder look at how it uses synthetic herbicides like Roundup following the state’s action to list the key ingredient in the weed killer as a known cause of cancer.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to re-bid a large landscaping contract to see if there are maintenance options that don’t use glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup, or neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides suspected of contributing to the demise of bee populations.
The city will seek bids for landscaping methods using common chemical sprays, as well as bids using more organic methods outlined by the Russian River Watershed Association.
“I will be very interested to see the Russian River-friendly proposal,” said Councilman Chris Rogers, who urged the city rethink its approach.
The move was the latest by a local government amid rising regulatory and scientific scrutiny of glyphosate, listed this month by California as a cancer-causing agent over the objection of agrichemical giant and Roundup maker Monsanto, which contends it is safe when used appropriately.
Read more at: Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks | The Press Democrat

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Officials work to enforce Roundup rules in Sonoma County 

Stephen Nett, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

This spring, a court ruled that the California Environmental Protection Agency can move ahead with its decision to list glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent, a carcinogen, under Proposition 65, after reviewing a body of scientific studies on glyphosate’s potential health risks. The World Health Organization, after its own independent review, took a similar step in 2015.

On a sunny warm May afternoon, Andrew Smith drives around the tree lined, well-tended neighborhoods of Sonoma, on the lookout for a lethal ritual. In a green vest, white Sonoma County Department of Agriculture truck and sunglasses, he’s looking for workers spraying pesticides to kill plants, insects and animals. He stops to make pesticide safety inspections. And when he meets maintenance gardeners using pesticides without a license, he tells them they have to stop until they have one.
Unlicensed pesticide use is a big and growing problem. And Smith, a senior agricultural biologist, acknowledges, his is not a particularly popular job.Armed with colorful booklets, Smith introduces the license, and licensing process, in English or Spanish, as necessary. Sometimes he writes a notice of violation, which can carry a financial penalty. Sometimes, they listen. Sometimes, they turn their back and walk away.
Apart from the maintenance gardeners he approaches, few people even know he’s out there doing it.
But Smith, who grew up in Sonoma County, takes the responsibility seriously. Like his co-workers at the Department of Agriculture, and their counterparts in counties across the state, he’s on the front line to enforce the state rules that protect people and other life in the environment from being poisoned.
Read more at: Officials work to enforce Roundup rules in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

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Pernicious pesticides hiding in plain sight

Megan Kaun, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

We talk a lot these days about the importance of civic engagement. If you are convinced that pesticides and your family should not mix, adopt your favorite park or school campus. Though they might be hesitant initially to change the way things are done, with persistence and a smile they will probably allow you to do their job for them.

What’s yellow and orange and dead all over?
Bright orange streaks pop from the verdant Sonoma County landscape this spring. These are poisoned plants, treated by glyphosate. If you are like me, you may have overlooked this phenomenon, but once you know, it is impossible to ignore.Glyphosate (ɡlīf-ə-sāt), the active ingredient in products like RoundUp®, is the chemical of choice for weed control.
Originally promoted for its safety compared to other pesticides, increasing evidence links glyphosate to cancer and other significant health issues. However, these dangers are largely unrecognized by its users and the general public. In fact, the County of Sonoma alone sprayed over 3,800 gallons of glyphosate-based pesticides in public spaces in 2015; from Spring Lake in Santa Rosa to Sunset Beach in Guerneville.
For a long time, I didn’t notice the dead orange weeds along the sidewalks, nor did I think about how they might be affecting my family’s health and local wildlife. I avoided using pesticides at home, but I didn’t consider use at our parks and schools. I am an environmental engineer, who spent my early career cleaning up toxic waste, so I should have known better. Two years ago I was unaware. Then a personal experience woke me up.
Read more at: Pernicious Pesticides – Hiding in Plain Sight – April 2017

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California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup

Scott Smith, ASSOCIATED PRESS
California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.
California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.
Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.
“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.
After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.
Read more at: California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma County parents, farmers lobby state over pesticide 

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Lobbying groups have been making last-minute pitches to an obscure state agency on an issue that has ramifications throughout the state and particularly in Sonoma County: To what length should farmers go to protect schoolchildren from sprayed pesticides?
The state Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed a rule that would ban pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of schools and day care centers on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Comments are due Friday and the department has received about 500 from various groups, said spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe.
DPR Director Brian Leahy has said the proposal “builds in additional layers of protection for students and school staff that are located in agricultural areas” as well as ensures better communication.
Parents and anti-pesticide advocates tend to believe the proposal should crack down harder on spraying. Ag groups that include grape growers fear the regulation is overreach, not supported by science.
A study by the state Department of Public Health found 36 percent of 2,511 California schools surveyed in agricultural zones in 2010 had 144 “pesticides of public health concern” sprayed within a quarter mile. It did not determine whether children were actually exposed to such pesticides. The National Pesticide Information Center contends that infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults, and that parents should take steps to minimize their child’s exposure to them.
Spraying by aircraft, sprinklers, air-blast and all fumigant applications would be covered under the proposed rule. It also would prohibit most dust and powder pesticide applications including sulfur, which is a popular product used generously on Sonoma County farms to combat diseases such as powdery mildew on grapevines. A natural product, sulfur is allowable in organic farming.In 2014, out of the 2.2 million pounds of pesticides used in Sonoma County, 1.4 million pounds were sulfur, according to the department’s database.
The other main pesticides used in Sonoma County include those that come from petroleum (154,542 pounds), mineral oil (115,625 pounds) and various glyphosphates (94,152 pounds), an herbicide category that includes the weed killer known as Roundup, deemed safe by the EPA if used according to directions but criticized by some health groups.
Read more at: Sonoma County parents, farmers lobby state over pesticide | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA