As one of the nation’s agricultural leaders, Minnesota’s relationship with farming is deep and historic. Agriculture contributes about $112 billion to the state’s economy, directly and indirectly, and provides more than 430,000 jobs. The sheer scale of farming in the state is a major reason why many people in Minnesota may be interested in understanding the risks associated with their exposure to an herbicide used in agriculture, called “Roundup.”
Roundup is the subject of more than 125,000 class-action lawsuits that allege that the weedkiller causes a particular form of cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and three trials have ended in verdicts agreeing with that position.
Bayer AG, the German company that sells Roundup, maintains it is safe but has still proposed setting aside as much as $12 billion to settle current and future claims over the product.
So, what should people in Minnesota who used or were exposed to Roundup know about its history, its alleged health effects, and what their legal recourse may be if they have become sick due to exposure?
- 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 Minnesota?
- What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
What Does Roundup Do?
Roundup is the most commercially successful weedkiller ever, but its primary ingredient, glyphosate, was known primarily for its industrial uses until about 40 years ago. Let’s look at the background of Roundup and its connections to agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.
History of Roundup
Before it was packaged as Roundup, the most common use for glyphosate was as a solvent to clear calcium deposits from large-scale plumbing and heating equipment, like boilers. But glyphosate took on a new form in the early 1970s when a researcher at Missouri-based Monsanto realized that it killed plants.
In 1974, Monsanto got a patent for glyphosate as a weedkiller and began selling it under the Roundup brand. Today, several products carry the Roundup name, but all of them are glyphosate-based, non-selective herbicides.
Some research has indicated that glyphosate works by cutting off plants’ ability to produce an enzyme they need to survive. Monsanto and Bayer have maintained that the lack of this enzyme in humans means glyphosate can’t possibly be harmful, but academic studies suggests that Roundup’s formulation is more harmful than glyphosate on its own.
Roundup & Minnesota Agriculture
Roundup is such a successful product that in many households, the brand’s name is synonymous with “weedkiller,” even though there are dozens of other weedkillers on the market. Roundup is used widely in commercial landscaping, municipal groundskeeping, and residential lawn care.
However, by far the biggest use of Roundup is in the agricultural sector, which shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the sheer scale of farming in Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. How widely used is glyphosate in this state and country? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 3.8 billion pounds of glyphosate have been used on U.S. farms since 1992.
Let’s take a closer look at farming and glyphosate use in Minnesota:
- Since 1992, 237 million pounds of glyphosate have been used on Minnesota farm fields, which is the fourth-highest number among all states.
- In 2017, the most recent year for available data, about 15.2 million pounds of glyphosate were used in Minnesota agriculture. That figure represents a more than 300% increase in glyphosate used for Minnesota farming since 2000.
- Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide or herbicide in Minnesota farming, outselling its top competitor by nearly triple.
- Soybeans account for more than half of the glyphosate Minnesota farmers use (55%), while corn adds another 38%.
- In 2020, Minnesota ranked in the top five in the country for both corn and soybean production. The state’s farmers produced more than 1.5 million bushels of corn (fourth place) and nearly 374 million bushels of corn (third place).
Is Roundup Dangerous?
Bayer and Monsanto maintain that Roundup is not dangerous, but the three jury verdicts disagree with them, as does recent scientific study. In fact, according to a study published by the University of Washington, the risk of getting cancer rises by more than 41% after using Roundup.
The cancer at the heart of that study, all three jury verdicts, and virtually all the 125,000 pending cases, is non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or “NHL.” Let’s learn more about this type of cancer and why Roundup remains available for sale.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, like all other types of lymphoma, develops when the body’s white blood cells grow out of control. While many types of lymphoma are classified under the NHL banner, they are different from Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as “Hodgkin’s disease.”
NHL accounts for about 4% of all cancer cases, which it makes it relatively common, and projections indicate that about 82,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed this year. Sadly, about 21,000 people per year die from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
A Minnesota resident who used glyphosate or Roundup should monitor their health for these common symptoms, though they vary widely from person to person:
- Chest pain
- Easy bruising
- Frequent, severe infections
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen abdomen
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
If you have used Roundup and are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s important to speak with your doctor right away. This is especially true if you’re experiencing more than one. This is recommended for NHL because if the disease is detected early, there is a good chance of successful treatment.
About 73% of NHL patients whose cancer is detected in the earliest stage live at least five years after being diagnosed; this rate falls to 57% if the cancer has spread throughout the body.
Roundup’s Regulatory Status
As recently as 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reauthorized glyphosate for use in the United States. For the past several years, the agency has indicated that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic, but this is a reversal of the 1985 findings of a safety panel. Still, Roundup and glyphosate have remained cleared from a regulatory standpoint since the early ’90s.
That said, the EPA is one of a shrinking number of voices to rule that glyphosate is not harmful. The states of California and New York have both determined that it’s not safe to use, and in 2021 (barring legal action against the law), New York is poised to become the first state to outright ban the use of glyphosate on state-owned lands. Additionally, the cancer research agency of the World Health Organization lists glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, and it’s banned in several countries around the world.
What’s the Current Status of Roundup Litigation?
The state of litigation over Roundup has been in a state of flux since the summer of 2020. After facing three consecutive defeats at the hands of jury members, Bayer AG, the German big pharma giant that bought Monsanto in 2018, proposed a pair of settlements that could total $12 billion.
Those settlements would settle most existing lawsuits and set aside funds to establish compensation for potential future claims. Neither settlement has been approved, though it has been reported that some current victims have agreed to the settlement.
At least one court hearing is expected to take place in 2021 over Bayer’s $2 billion proposal to end future claims, and negotiations are ongoing with victims and the company on both fronts.
The three trials that have been completed so far have all ended in multimillion-dollar awards for plaintiffs, for a combined total of $2 billion. While each of those has been lowered on appeal, courts have not overturned the facts the juries have determined during their deliberations. These are that Roundup caused or contributed to the plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto was aware that its product was dangerous, but failed to safeguard the public.
Labeling Class-Action Settlement
Separately, Bayer faced a class-action lawsuit over misleading product labeling. A $40 million settlement was approved in that case, and Minnesota residents who bought Roundup after Feb. 13, 2013 may be eligible to receive up to $90 in compensation because of language on the product label indicating that because it targets a plant enzyme, it can’t harm people or pets.
How Much Can I Get From a Roundup Lawsuit in Minnesota?
Because lawsuits over Roundup are in a state of uncertainty, nobody can predict for sure what a future case might garner for Minnesota residents who used glyphosate and were diagnosed with cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Importantly, none of the victims who have won jury verdicts have gotten money, and with settlement negotiations ongoing, it’s unknown how much each of the current litigants who agree to settle will receive.
However, the company’s proposed settlements can provide some insight in terms of which types of victims could expect to see the highest award amounts. The average victim is believed to be in line for about $165,000, while certain factors, like age or extent of cancer, are expected to raise or lower that sum.
Survivors of Roundup victims should receive the highest awards, particularly in cases where the deceased left behind a spouse or minor children when they died.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
Minnesota residents who have Roundup, glyphosate, or a related herbicide, should stop using the product. If they’re using it for their jobs, they should demand their employer provide them with a safe alternative. And if you are experiencing any of the medical symptoms we listed, please seek an urgent appointment with a doctor for a full examination. Remember that NHL can be treated in many cases if it’s detected early enough.
While settlement negotiations are ongoing, if you haven’t yet filed a lawsuit over Roundup, there may still be time for you to seek justice. The best way to ensure you get everything you are entitled to is to speak with an expert Roundup class-action law firm in Minnesota, and we can help connect you with a firm in your area.
Consultations are usually free, and most people do not pay legal fees unless they win their case.