Protests against Monsanto's Roundup, a poisonous, weed-killing herbicide, have spread around the globe. An arm of the World Health Organization declared it a probable cause of cancer in 2015. California's Environmental Protection Agency recently decided to label it as such.
Environmental groups and activists in Northern California, a region known for its wines, advocate a moratorium on this herbicide as health concerns mount. Roundup is the world's most widely used pesticide.
Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, was the focus of an informational event at the Sebastopol Grange on Jan. 28. The event was sponsored by the Watertrough Children's Alliance as a fundraiser for a lawsuit against winemaker Paul Hobbs. Hobbs converted a Sebastopol apple orchard adjacent to schools into a vineyard, putting the health of about 500 children at risk by spraying the herbicide Roundup. The Sierra Club Sonoma Group co-sponsored the evening.
Sebastopol mayor Sarah Glade Gurney moderated a panel of the three experts: attorney Jonathan Evans of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity; organizer Ella Teevan of the Washington, D.C.–based Food & Water Watch; and former Petaluma city council member Tiffany Renée.
"Glyphosate has become a pervasive presence in the environment," said Evans. "Sixty-five percent of water in some countries has traces of it. Exposure can create a number of problems, including liver and kidney damage. It can even change one's DNA. Our goal is to protect health and keep these products out of the market."
After the state EPA moved to label Roundup as a probable cause of cancer, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against it. The company claimed that its First Amendment rights to free speech were being violated.
"We need to become educated consumers and not buy these products," added Evans. "We need to empower elected officials to act."
Richmond, Calif., banned all pesticides a year ago. Renée advocates similar action in Petaluma. "Glyphosate is a public health threat," she said. "The many costs are suffered by humans, animals and plants. The benefits are only to a few humans."
The highest use of glyphosate in Sonoma County is for wine grapes.
"We need activism," said Renée. "Eat locally, hopefully organic or biodynamic. Grow part of your own food."
Shepherd Bliss (email@example.com) teaches college at Dominican University, farms and has contributed to 24 books.
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