When Dewayne Johnson developed an odd rash, he had no idea that it would become terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or that he would end up fighting the agrochemical giant, Monsanto.
Johnson was a humble groundskeeper, whose job included spraying the herbicide, Roundup, on school playgrounds to control weeds. When Johnson took Monsanto to court, there was insufficient scientific evidence to prove that Roundup caused Mr. Johnson’s cancer; however, the judge upheld the jury’s decision that Roundup was a substantial contributing factor and that Monsanto intentionally kept information about its potential harm from the public.
This case is relevant to you and me because Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Registered in 130 countries, including Canada, it is approved for use on over 100 crops, including food. We are all eating trace amounts of it every day, but is there a real risk to our health?
In science, there is a saying, “correlation does not imply causation,” meaning that just because two things appear to be related, it does not mean that they are related. Coincidences do exist, and with cancer being a very complex disease, causation is hard to prove.
That being said, cancer is now the leading cause of death in Canada, and do we really want to be taking these risks? Health Canada considers glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) to be “unlikely to pose a human cancer risk;” whereas, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Like so many other health issues, the public is left confused, unsure who to believe – who is doing these studies and who is funding the research?
As the debate on the safety of glyphosate continues, Roundup is still being sprayed on our food. The best way to reduce your glyphosate exposure is to avoid using pesticides and to eat organically grown foods. As for Johnson, he has paved the way for thousands of other plaintiffs, but his $78.5 million is tainted by the fact that he has less than two years to spend with his wife and children.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietitian with Shuswap Lake General Hospital.