Weedkiller glyphosate a 'substantial' cancer factor

Irving Hamilton
March 20, 2019

In a landmark verdict against Monsanto that could have far-reaching implications, a federal jury on Tuesday found that the weed-killer Roundup was "a substantial factor" in causing a 70-year-old plaintiff's cancer.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found past year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people", Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said in a statement, referring to the active ingredient in Roundup. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal.

The jury's verdict comes just months after Monsanto was ordered to pay over $200 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who said Roundup caused his cancer. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 11,000 similar lawsuits across the US.

The latest verdict was not a finding of Bayer's liability for the cancer of plaintiff Edwin Hardeman.

One of the experts called by Hardeman's team suggested that Roundup is even more risky than glyphosate on its own, because of additives in the weed killer.

Chief executive Werner Baumann said last month the company faced a total of 11,200 U.S. cases over Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate, a herbicide key to Monsanto's business model that has come in for intense scrutiny around the world. Hardeman's attorneys first had to convince jurors that his use of Roundup was a significant factor in his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides as safe when used as directed", the group said in its statement, highlighting "800 rigorous studies" of glyphosate's effects.

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Chhabria has scheduled another bellwether trial for May and a third trial is likely to take place this year.

During the first phase, Hardeman's lawyers were not allowed to present evidence allegedly showing the company's efforts to influence scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of its products.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation's cancer agency, concluded that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans".

"We look forward to presenting this evidence to the jury and holding Monsanto accountable for its bad conduct", Hardeman's legal team added.

Germany's Bayer, which bought Monsanto past year, filed an appeal.

The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup's manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Hardeman's case was a so-called bellwether trial meant to help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the more than 760 Roundup cases consolidated in the federal court in San Francisco.

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