As a new study finds that an ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide is harming honey bees the corporation is seeking to have a recent $289 million jury award thrown out of court.
A newly published study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin points to the popular chemical glyphosate as a culprit for harming special gut bacteria in honey bees. The study, “Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees”, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and points to exposure to glyphosate as disrupting the gut bacteria and making bees more susceptible to illness. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup.
“Bees rely on a specialized gut microbiota that benefits growth and provides defense against pathogens,” the researchers write. “Exposing bees to glyphosate alters the bee gut community and increases susceptibility to infection by opportunistic pathogens.” The researchers investigated the effects of glyphosate exposure on specific sizes and composition of honey bee gut bacteria. “We found the microbiome was affected by glyphosate exposure during and after gut colonization, and that glyphosate exposure during early gut colonization increased mortality of bees exposed to an opportunistic pathogen.”
Further, the researchers note that some species in the bee gut can handle higher concentrations of glyphosate due to the presence of a specific enzyme while others are sensitive due to the presence of another enzyme.
Bayer AG, the newly minted parent company of Monsanto Co, released their own statement claiming the study was unreliable due to the small sample of individual bees and that the study does not meet international guidelines on pesticide research. The chemical company also stated that it was “questionable whether the concentrations of the substance tested could at all be absorbed by bee populations in the open over a relevant period of time.”
The study comes as Bayer and Monsanto continue to fight claims that their products cause cancer in humans.
In early August, a California jury found that Monsanto failed to notify Dewayne Johnson and other consumers of the dangers of the company’s chemical concoctions. The jury handed down a $289 million award to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed-killers gave him cancer. Johnson told the jury he had been involved in two accidents during his work in which he was doused with the Monsanto’s RoundUp, the first of which happened in 2012. By 2014 Johnson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Now Monsanto is claiming there is insufficient evidence available to support Johnson’s claims.
The company said in motions filed in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California that the jury’s decision was insufficiently supported by the evidence presented at trial by school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. Reuters reports that Monsanto called on San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos to either throw the verdict out, reduce the award, or grant the company a new trial. The motion will be heard on October 10. Monsanto is also facing a reported 8,000 similar lawsuits across the United States and the government of Vietnam recently discussed taking legal actions against the much-maligned company.