Indiana is the eighth-largest agricultural exporter in the U.S., and farming supports nearly 200,000 jobs in the state. While the industry has been in a decline over the past several years, the centrality of farming in the Indiana economy is one reason why many people across the state are following the legal controversy surrounding an herbicide that’s commonly used in agriculture — “Roundup.”
About $30 billion in value is produced by Indiana farms every year, making the value of Indiana’s agricultural sector the 11th-biggest in the country. And more than 80% of land in Indiana consists of farms, forests, and woodlands.
With tens of thousands of people across the state working in agriculture, it’s no wonder that the ongoing class-action lawsuits, settlement negotiations, and controversy surrounding Roundup has drawn so much attention in Indiana.
What should Indiana residents know about Roundup, the potential negative health effects it may cause, and what legal rights they may have to seek justice if they used Roundup and later became sick?
- What Does Roundup Do?
- Is Roundup Dangerous?
- What’s the Current Status of Roundup Litigation?
- How Much Can I Get From a Roundup Lawsuit in Indiana?
- What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
What Does Roundup Do?
What exactly is Roundup, and what does it do? While today it’s used as an herbicide (a chemical that kills plants), the chemical that makes Roundup an herbicide didn’t start out that way. Despite claims that it’s safe, there are growing connections between Roundup and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer.
History of Roundup
Roundup is the brand name of a suite of herbicides that contain the chemical glyphosate as their active ingredient. For most of its history, glyphosate had been used in the commercial heating and plumbing industry to remove calcium buildup from equipment like pipes and boilers.
But in the early part of the 1970s, a Monsanto researcher discovered that glyphosate was lethal to plants. Monsanto’s history with controversial chemicals is well-known, as it was the company that first introduced the artificial sweetener saccharin.
In 1974, the company patented glyphosate for use as an herbicide and began selling it under the brand name Roundup. The company later introduced “Roundup Ready” seeds that many farmers use to grow crops like corn, soybeans, and more, because they are resistant to the effects of Roundup.
How Does Roundup Work?
As we mentioned, glyphosate is an herbicide, and as a non-selective herbicide, it will kill just about any plant to which it is applied. It is believed that it does this by preventing plants from creating an enzyme they need for healthy growth. Without it, the plant soon dies.
For this reason, Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer, maintain that because this enzyme exists in plants but not mammals, Roundup is safe for use by humans. However, some research has indicated that rather than glyphosate itself causing damage to humans, the mix of ingredients in Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides is the problem.
Roundup & Indiana Agriculture
Studies have suggested that Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in history, thanks in part to its widespread use in agriculture, commercial landscaping, and residential lawn care. Many people reading this now may have a bottle or two of Roundup on a garage shelf. However, farmers are the biggest users of glyphosate.
When it comes to growing important crops, how widely used is glyphosate in Indiana and across the country for? According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 195 million pounds of glyphosate have been spread on Indiana farm fields since 1992.
Let’s take a closer look at farming and glyphosate in Indiana:
- Since 1992, 195.1 million pounds of glyphosate have been used on Indiana farm fields — an amount which ranks eighth in the country, just behind Kansas. Neighboring Illinois is second at 334 million pounds, and Iowa is first at 343 million pounds.
- In 2017, the most recent year for available data, about 12.4 million pounds of glyphosate were used in Indiana agriculture, which represents a 152% increase since 2000. However, more recent years have seen a slight drop in glyphosate use in the state.
- Still, glyphosate is the most used herbicide or pesticide in Indiana agriculture by a factor of nearly three. Glyphosate accounts for more pesticide use in Indiana than the next four combined (atrazine, metolachlor, metolachlor-S, and acetochlor).
- Soybeans (60%) and corn (39%) account for virtually all the glyphosate used in Indiana, and all other listed crops combined account for less than a 1%.
- Indiana is one of the nation’s top producers of both corn and soybeans. The state’s farmers produced nearly 1 billion bushels of corn in 2020, the fifth highest output in the country, and about 329 million bushels of soybeans, putting the state in fourth place for that crop.
Is Roundup Dangerous?
The answer to the question of whether Roundup is too dangerous to use depends on whom you ask. If you put that question to the estimated 125,000 people who have sued Monsanto and Bayer because they used the product and got cancer, they’d certainly say it is dangerous, while the companies and even some government regulators differ.
To answer the question of Roundup’s potential danger, let’s first look at the cancer involved in most cases against Roundup and which affects plaintiffs in all three of the Roundup trials that have concluded to date.
Like all types of lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that forms in the white blood cells of the body that can spread throughout the system. Multiple forms of lymphoma fall under the NHL label, but they are not the same as another well-known type of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, which many people call Hodgkin’s disease.
American Cancer Society projections indicate that about 82,000 Americans will be diagnosed with NHL this year, and about 4% of all cancer cases fall under that umbrella.
The physical signs of NHL vary from person to person and depend largely on how advanced the cancer is. But if you’re an Indiana resident who used or was exposed to glyphosate or Roundup, there are a few symptoms to watch out for:
- Chest pain
- Easy bruising
- Frequent, severe infections
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen abdomen
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
Especially if you’re experiencing more than one of the symptoms on this list, you should consult with your doctor, even if you haven’t used Roundup. But if you have used Roundup and any of these physical signs apply to you, seeking medical attention will give you the best chance of long-term health and survival if, indeed, you do have NHL.
When it’s caught early, NHL is treatable. In fact, about 73% of people who are diagnosed in the earliest stages live for at least five years. That falls to about 57% after cancer spreads throughout the body.
In addition to the jury verdicts that have connected Roundup with cancer, recent academic studies have sought to clarify exactly what impact glyphosate may have on the risk of NHL. A University of Washington study determined that a person’s risk of NHL rose by 40% after Roundup exposure.
Roundup’s Regulatory Status
Roundup remains on many store shelves in large part because it has continued to receive the safety sign-off from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the federal body responsible for regulating herbicides and pesticides.
However, other regulatory bodies in the U.S. and beyond believe that glyphosate is carcinogenic. The International Agency for Cancer Risk lists glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, and the state of California does, as well. And unless the law is successfully challenged in court, the state of New York will be the first to ban glyphosate on state-owned property.
Other communities have limited the use of glyphosate or outright banned it, even for residential use.
What’s the Current Status of Roundup Litigation?
So far, three of the estimated 125,000 lawsuits that have been filed over Roundup have proceeded to trial. All have been in California, and each has ended in a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, who claimed they got non-Hodgkin lymphoma from using Roundup.
All told, their jury awards surpassed the $2 billion mark, though in all cases, those figures were reduced on appeal. While the appeals process has managed to lower the awards plaintiffs in these cases are expected to receive, the basic findings of the jury members that Roundup causes cancer has not been overturned, despite the company’s efforts to get the verdicts thrown out.
Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical company, purchased Monsanto in 2018, which was after hundreds of cases had been filed over Roundup, and the company’s shareholders are eager to put the lawsuits to bed. That’s why in 2020, Bayer proposed setting aside about $10 billion to settle most ongoing cases and $2 billion to establish a fund for future cases.
Negotiations are ongoing on both settlement fronts, and hearings have been scheduled for summer 2021 in the future settlement proposal. Some existing plaintiffs are said to have agreed to the $10 billion settlement package, but the proposals have not yet been approved.
Bayer remains in court over appeals in two of the three verdicts against it so far after dropping its appeal of the verdict in the case of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a California school groundskeeper who was the first plaintiff to win a verdict in these cases.
Labeling Class-Action Settlement
While negotiations are ongoing over the cancer-related Roundup cases, a $40 million settlement has already been approved in a separate class-action lawsuit over the product labeling of Roundup bottles.
Indiana residents who purchased Roundup after Feb. 13, 2015 may be eligible to receive up to $90 in compensation. This is because of wording on the product that said it was safe for humans and pets, because it targets a plant enzyme that’s not in mammals.
How Much Can I Get From a Roundup Lawsuit in Indiana?
With the potential of $12 billion in settlement money on the horizon, those who have already filed class-action lawsuits over Roundup and those considering their legal options may be wondering what possible compensation they could receive.
Two of the three jury verdicts against Roundup so far remain in appeals, and none of the plaintiffs in any of the three cases have received payments from Bayer and Monsanto. And negotiations are ongoing over the settlement to end most existing cases and set aside funds for future cases, so it’s difficult to predict with any certainty what kind of money a plaintiff could expect to see if they file a new case.
However, it’s believed that if the $10 billion settlement were approved, the average payout would be about $165,000, though some people would receive increased sums. Those who were diagnosed at an early age and those who are survivors of individuals who died from NHL are expected to receive the highest awards.
Also, the settlements will likely exclude those who are not U.S. citizens, which means that many migrant workers who have used Roundup would possibly not be eligible for compensation.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
If you’re an Indiana resident who used Roundup, you should stop using it right away. If it’s related to your job, your employer should be able to make a safe substitution. And if you are experiencing any of the symptoms we listed above, you should seek a consultation with your doctor.
For Indiana residents who used Roundup and have already been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you still have legal options, despite the potential settlement offers. Remember that neither has been approved, and the best way to ensure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to is to consult with an expert Roundup class-action law firm in Indiana.
We can help you connect with a firm in your area, and you likely won’t have to pay any legal fees unless you win your case. Initial consultations are usually free.