Letter from the "Round Up Queen"
We talk about the impacts of synthetic herbicides like RoundUp in abstractions most of the time, but it's these very real stories from our neighbors and community members that remind us why this work is so important. Thank you to community member Elaine Stevick for allowing us to share your story. For more information on the October 3, 2023 showing of Into the Weeds at the Santa Rosa Rialto Theater click [HERE].
Dear Sonoma Safe Ag Safe Schools,
I used Round Up on our garden property in Petaluma for close to 25 years, on an almost monthly basis, after I was advised by a landscape gardener and a UC Davis entomologist professor who was spraying near puppies we were about to bring home that it is "perfectly harmless...only kills the weeds." My husband actually called me the "Round Up Queen" .
In 2014, on Christmas Eve, I found myself unable to write a short sentence in cursive and had been experiencing imbalance and lack of coordination walking over the past week. Prior to that, almost a year of feeling "low" and starting to make mistakes in my writing at work. I was a Speech Language Pathologist and Learning Specialist in private practice in Petaluma. As a Speech Pathologist, I know there are environmental causes of cancer and other disorders and would NEVER have used a substance known to cause disease.
I was ultimately diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (brain cancer).After undergoing 6 months of chemotherapy on a bi-weekly basis, I was in remission and have been so for 8 years now, thank goodness.
Long story short, I was one of the first people to sign up to be a part of the cases that were going to Court (before any Class Action suits were even possible). We were scheduled to be the second of the Federal Court "bellwether" cases, but, after Monsanto/Bayer lost 3 cases (we sat in throughout the Hardeman trial and part of the Pilliod trial in Oakland), they wanted us to settle and other cases to settle, which we, ultimately did, not because we thought we would have lost our case but because we knew that if we settled, it meant that Bayer knew it was going to lose subsequent cases and Class Action cases were starting to form.
At the Hardeman trial, we met Carey Gillam, journalist with US Right to Know who wrote: "Whitewash", and, subsequently, "The Monsanto Papers" . In the latter book, she references our potential case and the fact that my husband now has been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, also likely from his exposure to Round Up. The trials revealed to us that the tests for safety were consistently positive for probable cause of cancer, but were always outside the range of statistical probability because they did not measure the effects of the surfactant that contributed to the toxicity.
I am telling you this just to encourage you in your fight against the use of this product and our support of the work of Damon Conolly. We had gone to a Town Hall where he mentioned his concern about this subject and we told him of our gratitude.
This Fall, Mercury Films of Canada is releasing their film: "Into the Weeds" in the US. We are noted in that film. You can find the trailer on Netflix.
Best wishes to you in your endeavors,
Petaluma, Sonoma County, California
Into the Weeds. Image of Dewayne Lee Johnson, former landscape worker for the Benicia Unified School District in Northern California.
From Wikipedia: Johnson v. Monsanto Co. was the first lawsuit to proceed to trial over Monsanto's Roundup herbicide product causing cancer. The lawsuit alleged that the exposure of glyphosate, an active ingredient in the Roundup product, caused Dewayne "Lee" Johnson's non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In a landmark verdict, Monsanto was ordered by a San Francisco jury to pay $289m in punitive damages and compensatory damages. Monsanto, and after June 2018 Bayer, appealed the verdict several times, but lost. The award was cut to $78 million, then reduced to $21 million after appeal.