Better to trust a clean earth than a dirty Monsanto… .

This one goes out to those who genuinely care about the world’s food: A piece from The Guardian (7/10/18). I’ve included a link to the article below. The piece is by Sam T. Levin.


Monsanto has long worked to “bully scientists” and suppress evidence of the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, a lawyer argued on Monday in a landmark lawsuit against the global chemical corporation.

“Monsanto has specifically gone out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers,” said the attorney Brent Wisner, who presented internal Monsanto emails that he said showed how the agrochemical company rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years while pursuing and helping to write favorable analyses of their products. “They fought science.”

Wisner, who spoke inside a crowded San Francisco courtroom, is representing DeWayne Johnson, known also as Lee, a California man whose cancer has spread through his body. The father of three and former school groundskeeper, who doctors say may have just months to live, is the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer. Thousands have made similar legal claims across the US.

In his opening remarks, the Monsanto lawyer George Lombardi alleged that the body of research over the years was on the company’s side: “The scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer.”

The case is significant in part because the judge has allowed Johnson’s lawyers to present scientific arguments. The suit centers on glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which Monsanto began marketing as Roundup in 1974, presenting it as a technological breakthrough that could kill almost every weed without harming humans or the environment.

Over the years, however, studies have suggested otherwise, and in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Roundup products are registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, and glyphosate has been found in food, a variety of water sources, and the urine of agricultural workers and others. A number of countries have policies banning or restricting the sale and use of glyphosate.

Johnson worked as a groundskeeper for a the school district in Benicia, just north of San Francisco, and was responsible for applying Roundup. Lawyers showed the jury photos of lesions and rashes on Johnson’s skin after he was regularly exposed to the chemical and was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in 2014, at age 42.

“The simple fact is he’s going to die. It’s just a matter of time,” Wisner said in court, as Johnson lowered his head and his wife cried in the seat next to him. “Between now and then, it’s just nothing but pain.

Wisner, who said the trial would include commentary from 10 current or former Monsanto employees, also read aloud internal corporate documents obtained during the case. In response to one critical study about glyphosate exposure, Donna Farmer, product protection lead, wrote in an email: “How do we combat this?”

Wisner also referenced an email from Farmer in which she gave colleagues guidance on how they could publicly talk about science, writing: “You cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer.” The Monsanto lawyer later said this comment had been taken out of context and presented in a misleading way.

A strategic corporate document also revealed Monsanto’s public relations plan to “orchestrate outcry” in advance of the IARC glyphosate classification, Wisner told the jury.

Wisner further cited Monsanto emails from decades prior, in which the company was working with a genotoxicity expert who reviewed a series of 1990s studies. He raised concerns about Roundup impacts on humans and suggested further areas of research. After the expert’s analyses, Monsanto representatives began considering finding a different expert and also started working on a press statement saying the product carried no risk, according to Johnson’s lawyer.

Wisner also read documents that he said showed how Monsanto strategized plans to “ghostwrite” favorable research.

Monsanto has continued to assert that its herbicide is safe, a claim that Johnson’s legal team is challenging, arguing that “scientific fraud” has contributed to Roundup marketing.

Lombardi, the Monsanto lawyer, argued that Johnson’s lawyers were “cherrypicking” studies that did not provide a “full picture”, repeatedly pointed to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings approving the use of glyphosate, and argued that the plaintiffs were overstating the significance of IARC’s conclusions. He also said Monsanto had been open about its involvement in research, adding: “Testing has been done by independent scientists, by university scientists, by government scientists.”

Timothy Litzenburg, one of Johnson’s lawyers, called his client “incredibly brave” in an interview with the Guardian before trial, adding: “Whatever happens … his sons will get to know that their dad was brave enough to go up against Monsanto completely alone, and first, before he died.”

In addition to financial compensation, a verdict in Johnson’s favor “would say that his life is worth something”, Litzenburg added.

Regardless of the outcome, the attorney said, “so much of what Monsanto has worked to keep secret is coming out”.


The Boy Who Gave Me the Middle Finger

Recently at one of the farmers markets I sell at, a woman and a teenage boy approached my stand, paused for a moment to whisper together, and then stepped forward. The boy was maybe seventeen, the woman in her mid-sixties.  I couldn’t place their relationship. The boy spoke for them, and he was shy.

“We were just wondering,” he said, “about those peas. If they’re the edible pod kind.”

I said they were, and taking a pea from a bowl full of them, I held it up, called it a snap pea, and showed them how to remove the string. Then I ate it.

“Would you like to try one?” I asked.

They both shook their heads no. But then the boy immediately changed his mind and said yes. And he followed through. He selected a pea, and, removing its string, popped it into his mouth. The woman and I watched him.

“The funny thing is,” he said, “is how we were just talking about this. I said you can eat the pods, she said no you can’t.“ We laughed, and I noticed the boy had a habit of rocking on his toes.  Every time he said something, he would lift himself with his toes.

Another thing I noticed (I had picked up on this immediately) was the kid’s shirt. He was wearing an oversized, black tee shirt. And plastered in huge on the shirt from the collar down to the hem was a yellow image of a menacing young man giving the world the middle finger. The finger was gigantic. It was the largest middle finger I’d ever seen. When the boy had reached for his sample pea, that finger was inches from my face.

“Let’s buy some,” the boy said to the woman. So I bagged a pound of peas, the woman paid, they left, and I thought no more about them.

But about twenty minutes later when I turned around after getting something from a cooler, there it was again, that middle finger, and filling all available space directly in front of me. The kid was back, but alone this time. He had a handful of bills showing and was almost smiling.

“Can I get more?” he asked.

“Peas you mean?”

“Yeah. Peas.” He pointed at them.

So I sold him another pound, plus one bunch of baby carrots. And he left.  But this time I paid attention to him. Eating a carrot as he went, he walked directly out of the market area, found his car, and got into the driver’s seat. I watched him for a moment, but as there were customers to tend to. I again forgot about him.

Until, and I’m not making any of this up, he returned for a third time. Same middle finger, some habit with the toes, but friendlier this time, confident almost.

“You’re back,” I said. “What took you so long?”

“Yeah,“ he said. “Hey, could I get more of those carrots.”

“Sure” I said. “You could get more if those carrots.”

He got his money out, counted it directly in front of that yellow finger, and handed it to me.

“I’m eating them in the car,” he said. “I eat them right down to the greens. But not the greens.  I throw those out.” And it was true. I watched. He went to his car, and I could see the carrot greens sailing out the window to land on the parking lot.

Somehow his car was missing part of the left-front wheel cover.  From where I stood with my peas and carrots, I could see most of the tire. I had wanted to watch him drive off, to see which way he went, but I didn’t get the chance.

I’ve been thinking about the boy ever since. I like thinking he will remember me. Actually, what I really mean is I like thinking he’ll remember my carrots.  I have the idea that if he remembers my carrots he’ll somehow come to forget that finger.

I wrote this one in July 2012.


A prophesied, ten-hour rain gathered in the night, stuttered a few times, false started, but now she goes, headlong and driving, and the earth, the proverbially good earth, doth receive her.

Two days ago when I was driving to Epping, in a space of about fifteen seconds I saw a farmer step out from his truck, walk purposefully a few steps into his field, drop to his knees, and immediately begin digging in the soil with his hands. When he leaned forward to get a better look, however, he lost his balance and fell directly onto his right forearm and elbow, which, in turn, prompted his left foot to lift and hang momentarily in the air behind him.

That’s all I saw, and that’s how I left the man: compromised on one knee and elbow.

The farmer, by the way, was looking for moisture, for sign of germination. For he is a man whose life is determined by moisture and germination. They are the stuff of his blood, his DNA, his dreams.

When I woke last night to the rain, gladdened, the man in the field was already there in my mind. And so I was doubly gladdened: once for the rain and once for the knowledge of the man’s satisfaction, too.

This one. Or this one


From where I live on Saddleback Mountain the sky is blue as purest love just now. From west across to east, from north across to south, it’s the blue original, the blue Eve knew, the blue you wish of your friends, of your lover, of your song, this rarest of blue in perfect certainty.

OR THIS ONE Continue reading

Polar Pop

At the convenience store awhile ago, a car pulled in next to mine and it was a grandmother driving and in back in a car seat, a grandson. The woman was maybe forty, the boy three, and after parking and gathering themselves, they went together into the store and I thought nothing more of them.

But then they came out again, slowly. The grandmother was holding the kid in one hand and a supersized Polar Pop in the other. Coming around to the passenger side of her car, the grandmother reached through the front window and placed the Polar Pop on the dashboard, opened the back door, strapped in the kid, closed the door, and then walked around and got into her car and started it. And then, reaching for the Polar Pop and twisting around as best she could, she handed it off to her grandson.

“It’s all yours honey,” she said. “Mine you don’t drop it.” Continue reading