By Sue Curry Jones
Last week, a California jury ruled in favor of a groundskeeper and awarded $289 million in damages. The court case revolved around the groundskeeper’s claim that the weedkiller Roundup had caused his cancer and the company was negligent in conveying the dangers.
Roundup, a product by Monsanto, contains an ingredient called glyphosate, and according to lab tests conducted by the World Health Organization years ago, the chemical is toxic and has been identified as a probable carcinogen.
But, what has made this case so much more interesting is the fact that not long after news agencies reported the jury’s findings last week, news channels also cited that many well-accepted and popular kids’ cereals, such as Lucky Charms, Cheerios, and Quaker Oats, have been found to contain levels of glyphosate when tested. The tests had been conducted by a nonprofit advocacy group called Environmental Working Group (EWG) and nearly three-fourths of the food items revealed glyphosate.
Most food suppliers, however, stand on the fact they operate within established guidelines of the U.S. government, and according to those standards, levels of glyphosate in food products are deemed acceptable because the amount is within the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines.
Therefore food suppliers dismiss the information.
They defend their stance by saying glyphosate is not added at their production plant, but rather, glyphosaste is utilized by farmers in the field, a component they have no control over. In this corporate realm, it seems, no one is willing to accept culpability.
Another case put to rest last week was the sentencing hearing for Sandy and Kermit Schofield of Theodosia, a local couple charged in 2017 with illegally trafficking wild ginseng and purchasing the root outside the legal buying period.
Serious offenses according to government standards, and for the Schofields, who are in their 70s, it was serious as well, as the couple faced a possible federal prison sentence.
In the end, most of the charges were dropped, but one charge held firm and prosecutors were asking for punishment. Yes, they were guilty, and they said so. They apologized to the court and community.
The Schofields stood up and took responsibility.
Last week in federal court, the Schofields’ punishment was swiftly implemented as they were placed on probation and fined $5,000. They also paid restitution of $65,000 and promised not to deal in ginseng for a year.
In comparison, it seems unjust the Schofields were arrested and charged for their crimes only days after illegally transporting ginseng to Missouri, and yet, corporations like Monsanto continue to produce products every day that may very well be causing harm to consumers –– products that garner multi-million dollar compensatory and punitive damage lawsuits.
It seems there is a dichotomy in standards, and in enforcement.
The Schofields say they are glad the incident happened as they learned so much about community and the outpouring of support from family, friends and neighbors .
For those of us who read the news, it is encouraging to know the world still has people like the Schofields who are willing to stand up and take responsibility for their actions, no matter what the consequences.
Perhaps Quaker Oats, Monsanto and government officials should quit skirting issues, and take note of the Schofields –– facing problems and owning up is what honest people do.