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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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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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Use of chemicals confirmed at Hwy 12 strawberry stand

Amie Windsor, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS
Sometimes, what the community loves and what the community values end up on opposing sides of the spectrum.
Take, for example, Lao’s Strawberries. The ever-loved strawberry stand, located on Highway 12, just east of the Sebastopol Grange, is a popular stopover for locals and tourists alike. Lao Saetern’s stand is known for its impossibly juicy, ever-red, super sweet strawberries, available from mid April through October.
However, the strawberries, as indicated by a report obtained from the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner, undergo pesticide and insecticide treatment, a practice in contrast to west county ideals and values of organic, chemical-free food.
The report is also in contrast to what the strawberry stand told Sonoma West Times and News back in April, when we reported on the season opening of the stand.
According to the report, Saetern used Roundup Powermax and Roundup Weathermax herbicides, along with Acramite 50WS — a pesticide — on his 12 acres of strawberries 17 times between February 2015 and November 2016.
“We spot treat,” Saetern said. “We don’t spray the whole field.”Saetern said he uses the pesticides and herbicides to fight off bugs and weeds that bring disease to the crops, such as spider mites and leaf blight.
“We have to attack so there’s no disease,” Saetern said. “If there’s disease we don’t use it. If there’s disease, there’s no food to eat or sell.”
While some might feel slighted about the revelation of Saetern’s chemical use, since the family farm maintained they used organic practices despite lacking an organic certification, it is important to understand that all strawberries — organic or conventional — are started in chemically-laced soil.
Read more at: Use of chemicals confirmed at strawberry stand | News | sonomawest.com

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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 bans GMO crops

Center for Food Safety, ECOWATCH
The Center for Food Safety celebrated a huge victory in Sonoma County, California, on Wednesday when voters approved a measure that will prohibit genetically engineered crops from being planted in the county.
The passage of the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance, better known as Measure M, will protect local and organic growers and producers who choose not to plant GMO seed.
“Enacting change in the food movement, or any movement, starts at the local level and the passage of Measure M is an incredible victory for Sonoma farmers and gardeners,” Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety, said. “Farmers deserve the right to grow food that is not contaminated by genetic engineering, just as the public deserves the right to purchase organic or GMO-free foods that are free from GMO contamination.”
Measure M passed by a large margin—55.9 percent to 44.9 percent—and Sonoma County now joins several neighboring counties including Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Santa Cruz that have passed similar ballot initiatives to protect farmers and crop integrity.
The Center for Food Safety is especially proud to see the democratic process work on behalf of our food, farmers and environment in this case for local food rights. The legal staff assisted in the drafting of the Sonoma ballot initiative and provided legal and scientific counsel throughout the last year, as with past county bans in California and in other states.
Source: Sonoma County Bans GMO Crops

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Op-Ed: Farming into the future in Sonoma County

Vesta Copestakes, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
As we head toward making a decision on whether to allow GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) into our agricultural landscape, we are impacting the future of agriculture AND  our economy. Opening or closing the door to GMO food crops, in a way that will impact all crops grown in Sonoma County, will define what can and cannot be grown here since genetically modified plants spread seed and pollen far beyond the fence that contains them.
We’re also considering laws on a related substance that is intricately connected to GMOs – Roundup® – also known as glyphosate. Why the connection? Because many genetically modified seeds and plants are what is called Roundup-Ready…they are resistant to the chemical that kills weeds. That connection between killing plants and the impacts on people is getting a lot of attention.
Our Board of Supervisors has a choice of voting a GMO ban into law or letting it go to the November ballot. On Tuesday, May 24th – after we went to press – supervisors declined to vote on the ordinance as it stands, and passed it to voters in the November election.
In March 2015, glyphosate was declared to be a “probable human carcinogen.” It’s the primary ingredient in Roundup and is used heavily on GMO crops because they have been engineered to be resistant to it. You can spray an entire field to kill weeds but not harm the plant you want to keep alive…convenient for farmers for reducing competition for water.
Read more at: Farming into the Future in Sonoma County

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Op-Ed: Making this area a GMO Free Zone

Pamela Gentry, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Please visit our website, GMOFreeSonomaCounty.com, where you can volunteer, donate and endorse with ease. You will find many different volunteer opportunities listed.

There is a grass-roots movement afoot in Sonoma County to join our neighbors to the north and south in creating a coastal GMO free zone. Volunteers for the group Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families can be spotted all over the county collecting signatures to qualify the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance for the ballot in November.
This ordinance would prohibit the “propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms in Sonoma County.”
Roundup-ready, genetically engineered crops (corn) and grasses (alfalfa, blue grass and fescue) are already moving into Sonoma County. New crops are awaiting approval. This ban on genetically engineered crops is needed in order to protect Sonoma County organic and conventional agriculture from contamination by genetically engineered plant pollen. Without this protection, our families, water and wildlife will continue to suffer from negative health and environmental effects associated with increased Roundup herbicide spraying.
While the overwhelming response to our signature drive has been positive, I have been perplexed over the past several months on the signature-gathering trail by some of the negative viewpoints expressed.
Read more: Close to Home: Making this area a GMO Free Zone | The Press Democrat