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article imageMonsanto on defensive over lawsuits as it lays off 2,600 workers

By Karen Graham     Oct 9, 2015 in Environment
Monsanto has been put on the defensive and is coming out fighting after two U.S. farm workers filed lawsuits last month, claiming the chemical in Roundup causes cancer. At the same time, the seed company is laying off 12 percent of its workforce.
The two plaintiffs, 58-year-old former field worker Enrique Rubio, and 64-year-old assistant horticulturist Judi Fitzgerald both filed lawsuits in federal court within hours of each other, Rubio, in Los Angeles and Fitzgerald in New York.
Rubio was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and he believes that glyphosate in Roundup and other pesticides were responsible for his diagnosis. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, and she is making a similar claim. According to EcoWatch, the plaintiffs are also accusing Monsanto of falsifying data and instigating a “prolonged campaign of misinformation” in an attempt to sway the public's and the government opinions on the safety of their product.
The two plaintiffs are being represented by Weitz & Luxenberg, a prominent New York City-based plaintiffs’ law firm specializing in asbestos disease, environmental pollutants, and dangerous drugs and medical devices. The firm also represents the town and school districts of Westport, Massachusetts. They filed a lawsuit against Monsanto last year to collect the costs of removing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from their schools.
Monsanto's latest woes date back six months, to a damaging report issued on March 20, 2015, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer arm of the World Health Organization. That report declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The two plaintiffs in the latest lawsuits are relying heavily on the IARC report to back up their claim.
Monsanto quickly moved to publicly reject the conclusions of the IARC, calling them "such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe." Monsanto was to remain in the public's eye even more than it had been. Just days later, on March 27, the company willingly paid a $600,000 fine for inadvertently letting poisonous chemical vapors loose into the air from one of their chemical plants.
It could be assumed by some people that the multinational biotech and agricultural firm has been the U.S. government's baby for years, especially so for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Almost every product Monsanto has introduced, including chemicals and their GMO seeds, have passed EPA scrutiny without question. But even the EPA has now started listening more to public opinion.
On April 23, Digital Journal reported that the EPA was considering asking the federal government to test for glyphosates in food products. It is interesting to note that the government does test hundreds of food products for pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and other chemicals every year, but because glyphosates have been considered safe by the EPA itself, there was no reason to test for the chemical.
Lawsuits are using up much of Monsanto's revenues, and this may be part of the reason behind the company's announcement on October 7 that it was eliminating 12 percent of their workforce. Approximately 2,600 workers are being let go in an effort to reduce expenses. Monsanto's predicted 2016 earnings are expected to be below projected figures. The commodity market is also weaker than expected, giving Monsanto another reason for the layoffs.
The Associated Press is reporting that Monsanto says the move was a “part of a cost-saving plan designed to deal with falling sales of its biotech seeds and herbicides, which pushed its quarterly losses deeper into the red." Monsanto is reporting a $495 million loss for its fiscal fourth quarter. Sales of its best-selling product, biotech corn seeds, fell five percent to $598 million, and the company’s chemical business, led by Roundup weed killer, also fell 12 percent to $1.1 billion.
More about monsanto lawsuits, Roundup, Glyphosate, slumping profits, Layoffs
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