Breaking News
More () »

Michigan man joins national fight against weed killer creators

Joe Bruinsma, 55, has spent the last 20 years battling Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the long-lasting effects the disease has had on his body.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A West Michigan farmer says one of the tools he used to kill weeds, ended up killing his livelihood years later. 

Roundup, an herbicide created by Monsanto, the company recently acquired by Bayer, has been the target of lawsuits across the country. Joe Bruinsma was watching television when he saw a call-out for anyone affected by the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate. He emailed his attorney that night. 

Bruinsma, 55, said he knew his battle with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was likely tied to his frequent use of chemical laden products on the family farm. 

“I didn’t know what product it was, I didn’t think it was this one. Because it was so widely used," Bruinsma said. "And the product was still on the market, unlike some of the other ones that they took off years ago."

Bruinsma's attorneys said the lack of information linking the product to cancer was intentional. 

RELATED: Man awarded $80 million in lawsuit claiming Roundup caused his cancer

“Monsanto knew about the link between the active ingredient in Roundup and cancer and they chose to bury those studies, fight those studies, and do anything they could to keep it from coming to light," said Varnum Law partner, Adam Brody. 

Bayer still vehemently denies the accusations. The company issued the following statement regarding Bruinsma's case:

“We have great sympathy for any individual with cancer, but the extensive body of science on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup does not cause NHL.

“The research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to EPA, European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, confirms that these products are safe when used as directed. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ its most favorable rating.

“Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”

Two separate juries in California have already found Monsanto guilty and ordered the company to pay plaintiffs millions of dollars. The most recent verdict came down Wednesday afternoon.

Bruinsma and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit March 21, Bruinsma is one of several local plaintiffs and his attorneys expect to hear from others. 

"For nearly 40 years, consumers, farmers, and the public have used Roundup, unaware of its carcinogenic properties," the nearly 30 page lawsuit reads in part. 

The lawsuit addresses not only the personal injury caused by the product, but also the company's false advertising and lack of warning. 

“Like all the other plaintiffs Joe had no notice that there was a link between this active ingredient and cancer," said Varnum Law partner, Brion Doyle. 

Bruinsma's family immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands in the late 1970s. His family flourished in Middleville, Mich., running a dairy farm. He said they typically handled all herbicides and pesticides with their hands. 

“We were talking farm all our lives, basically. That was standard practice in our family," Bruinsma said. 

Bruinsma had just opened his own farm in Freeport, Mich., in 1996, when he was diagnosed with NHL. 

By 2000, Bruinsma had sold his farm and had to receive a bone marrow transplant in order to live. He was in a coma for months and bed-ridden for several years. He's regained much of his health in the years since, but said he will never be 100 percent. He remains on permanent disability. 

“In my case it’s probably too late, but people are still using it, I don’t think it’s any less harmful than it was back then," Bruinsma said. 

He said a settlement won't change much, but Bruinsma does believe every victim should be compensated. 

“They certainly cannot give me my health back. If they could do that, then it would be no charge."

► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

Before You Leave, Check This Out