My Dad, Monsanto and Christmas Trees

My mom is the one who told me. She told me she saw the information in a TV commercial. Class-action lawsuits against Monsanto, on behalf of people who developed lymphoma and other cancers after exposure to its weed-killer, Roundup.

dad maine 001

My father, a Christmas tree farmer, died not long after turning 45, battling Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2001. He was diagnosed in 2000. In 1999, a study in Sweden (A Case-Control Study: non-Hogkin Lymphoma and pesticide exposure) found that agriculture workers who used pesticides contracted lymphomas at 2.7 times the rate of others. (That’s not just twice as often; that’s nearly three times as often.) But we didn’t know about that as my father battled and passed away. I didn’t find out about that study until years later, through the American Cancer Society. I was trying to understand more, get answers.

My mother has a huge bin she calls her “Dave bin,” full of things related to him and his illness. I’ve watched her read through papers, looking for names of oncologists and surgeons, diagnoses and dates. I’ve been through that bin alone before. Every page. Dried flowers from his grave preserved by his sister Bev. Emails to and from me and others during the time my parents were away in a hospital, separated from us kids. I was 22, teaching school. My younger siblings were in college, high school and middle school.

My first thought about the current class-action suit was surprise that that hadn’t been done already. I’ve known for so long. Did it really take 18 years for these results to be repeated enough in studies and get attention in this country?

I’d learned all this years ago–and then I’d stopped looking for new research. So it’s news to me now about the Round-ups specific meta-study that showed that incidence of lymphoma is two-fold among those exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup, specifically. And Sweden did another study, in 2008, showing a link between glyphosate (RoundUp is one example) exposure and developing lymphoma in ten years. Or a study of farm workers in the Midwest with high incidences of the cancer. And a study in Canada finding the relationship. (Links here)

Some of the lawsuits hinge on allegations that Monsanto knew and continued to sell its product—without warning the public.  About emails and cover-ups, back-room deals and attempts to kill studies . . .

My father was a tree farmer. He used those sprays, Roundup included, for up to about 15 years, I think. In a big tank on wheels pulled behind a tractor, with a hose he held to aim as he combed his fields. Mom telling him to shower as soon as he came in, sweaty and wet from the blowback of the spray, pine needles stuck to his skin and beard.

So ask me why I don’t buy farmed Christmas trees. Others see a cute family business; I see a family in danger.

So ask me why I refuse to use Roundup. Why I spray weeds at my house with a vinegar and epsom salt solution instead. Why I cried when someone sprayed the remainder of a bottle of Round-up on our property to “use it up.”

So ask me why I buy organic food. “Cheaper” food grown with pesticides comes at such a high cost: the health, maybe even lives, of those who grew it for me to eat. Men with families. Migrant workers. Couples trying to raise children. And children themselves helping with the farm work. As my family’s “indoor girl” who preferred to help with the babies, I never helped  Dad with anything on the tree farm except trimming. (I was good at shaping Christmas trees.) I am one of four sisters and I do think if we’d been boys, we’d likely have been doing some of that work–and our brother, the last born of us, may have taken on spraying if my father had lived longer. (As it happened, my brother was 10 when my father was diagnosed and the farm work was discontinued.)

So ask me why I don’t buy/support GM (genetically modified) foods. It’s not just the guinea-pig nature of changing the DNA of our food supply and the complications–it’s for the fact that most of the GM foods are modified in order to tolerate being sprayed heavily with Roundup! (Is that not crazy?) GM food, through some unexpected consequences of resistance, now is drenched in even more of the chemicals. (And I don’t really want to eat that food either.)

Food is grown by people. Food grown with pesticides is grown by people whose skin is absorbing those pesticides. Those people are someone’s father/mother, husband/wife, son/daughter, brother/sister. Like my father.


Other things I write about:

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

18 Things I Didn’t Do This Summer (Is Summer Mom Guilt A Thing?)

Mirror-Image Drawing, Week 2, Classical Conversations, Native American

3 Reasons Why You Should Still Garden (even when you don’t really have time to do it well)



About Renee Lannan's blog

I live, write, teach and enjoy life from a place of hope and a belief in miracles from seeing first-hand the depths of redemption
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10 Responses to My Dad, Monsanto and Christmas Trees

  1. Pingback: Perspective Drawing Lesson, Week 5, Lego Figures | Renee Lannan's blog

  2. Hana says:

    Preach it, Renee! I’m so sorry for the devastating loss in your family, but proud of you for speaking truth and sharing your story!

  3. Harry Blanchard says:

    Dave was a great brother-in-law. A real loss to our family and world.

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