Christine Sheppard, who has had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the last 12 years, has to take pills every four hours to avoid “hopping and screaming” in pain. For years she didn’t know what might have caused her lymphoma until a group of cancer researchers reported that glyphosate, Roundup’s key ingredient, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And that mattered to Sheppard because Roundup was the very same herbicide she sprayed on her coffee farm in Hawaii- for five years.
No one told her but we now know that someone knew. In fact, multiple someones knew.
In March of 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer caused a stir by labeling glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In part, the report stated, “The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
And with that, patients were going to have their day in court.
Timothy Litzenburg, a lawyer is currently representing more than 500 of them. According to him, most of the patients didn’t know about the possible link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma until the report came out. But if many other companies are selling products containing glyphosate too, why aren’t they being sued?
He said,
“This is an oversimplistic answer, but Monsanto invented/discovered it, they held the patent for many years, they are the EPA registrant for glyphosate, and they continue to dominate the market. Furthermore, we are not alleging that our clients got cancer from glyphosate alone. We are suing because our clients got cancer from Roundup. … Roundup contains animal fats and other ingredients that increase the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate. Glyphosate alone is carcinogenic, but the addition of a surfactant has a ‘synergistic’ effect.”
Obviously, this is a claim that Monsanto has denied and will continue to deny, “Glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup-brand formulated products with surfactants, all have a long history of safe use and do not pose any unreasonable risk to human health when used according to label directions.”
They went on to stress that the IARC’s report doesn’t “establish a link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer,” in their eyes the lawsuits have no merit. However, for having no merit, Monsanto sure did mount quite a large effort to discredit the IARC report, and all before it even came out… like a month before.
When the IARC report came out in 2015, Monsanto executive William F. Heydens sent an internal email to company toxicologist Donna Farmer with the subject line “RE: IARC planning.” In the email, he suggested ghostwriting parts of an “overall plausibility paper” to save money; he said a “less expensive/more palatable approach” might be to involve experts only for some of the less contentious parts of the report. Then, Monsanto would “ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections.”

Trudo Lemmens, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in health law, said ghostwriting is both routine and troublesome because “It undermines the entire trust we have in the scientific basis of reports written by experts if we allow them to be ghostwritten and if scientists put their names on it.” For their part, Monsanto claims the email doesn’t prove anything AND that “The paper and its conclusions are the work of the glyphosate expert panel. The paper also underwent (a) rigorous peer review process before it was published.”
You can read all the emails for yourself, which you really should do, just click on the links below:
Source: CNN