The jury in a California court awarded groundskeeper Johnson $289 million dollars in damages to kick start what is looking to be a multi-billion dollar Bayer problem with over 8000 additional lawsuits filed over glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup.
Director Keith Tyrell of Pesticide Action Network UK reports that ‘the real bombshell was the judgement that Monsanto knew (or should have known) that its product could cause cancer.’
The case has huge implications for glyphosate, and Roundup, the world’s most widely-used weedkiller, which has been the subject of much scientific debate in recent years and through studies is being linked to:
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Bone Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
Bayer AG Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann has indicated that this ruling will not affect their acquisition of Monsanto. He told Bloomberg in a conference call that “there is “an awful lot of excitement and enthusiasm” at Bayer about the $66 billion Monsanto purchase..stating that ‘the company believes the jury decision is “wrong” and “inconsistent with the robust science-based conclusions of regulators and health authorities worldwide.”
PAN UK’s Tyrell continues that ‘in 2015, IARC, the World Health Organization’s expert agency on cancer, concluded that glyphosate was a “probable human carcinogen”, but this has been challenged aggressively by Monsanto – who produce Roundup. Other regulatory agencies such as the EU’s Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and US Environmental Protection Agency have disagreed with the IARC conclusions.
Reviewing the case Tyrell continues in his report that “during the eight-week trial, the jury heard competing arguments from independent experts about whether Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s use of Roundup and Ranger Pro – another glyphosate containing herbicide produced by Monsanto – contributed to him contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Weighing up this evidence they concluded that it had been a substantial factor behind his illness. The fact that a jury came to this conclusion is important in its own right, but the real bombshell was the judgement that Monsanto knew (or should have known) that its product could cause cancer, that it “acted with malice or oppression”, and that this was “committed, ratified, or authorized by one or more officers, directors, or managing agents of Monsanto acting on behalf of Monsanto”. Over the course of the trial, Johnson’s lawyers presented evidence – including from a stash of secret internal Monsanto emails and documents – claiming that Monsanto had deployed a host of dirty tricks to keep its product on the market. These included sacking internal experts who suggested that there were problems, strategising to “ghostwrite” favourable scientific papers and organising PR attacks on studies like IARC’s that showed glyphosate was harmful. In light of this, pesticide regulators around the world should now be questioning the company’s claims that its product is safe. Last year, it was alleged that sections of EFSA’s evaluation of glyphosate had been written by a former Monsanto employee. And there have been repeated calls for an investigation into possible collusion between the US EPA and Monsanto over its assessment of glyphosate.” Tyrell concludes that “this economic impact may be the real wake-up call – companies must now understand that knowingly selling chemicals that are linked to cancer is not only morally questionable, but will also hit their bottom line. Regulators can no longer sit on their hands. In light of this judgement, continued failure to act is negligent, and arguably leaves them just as liable for allowing a known dangerous product to stay in use.”
Bayer AG’s Baumann told Bloomberg he is “confident Bayer’s legal resources will help it defend glyphosate and that any appeal in the Roundup case will likely take “a year or longer.” He also told Bloomberg that the company wasn’t earmarking any funds to settle Roundup cases.
It is clear that this case is not going to be a simple sweep beyond the public eye, what with digital Adwords campaigns being run by consumer attorney’s Baum Hedlund that call for potential victims of cancers associated with the use of Roundup to join the Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit. And Baum Hedlund do indeed look to be rounding up the chips that have fallen – collaborating for power – they are “proud to be working, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., his partner, Kevin Madonna and many other environmental and plaintiff lawyers across the nation in the Monsanto Roundup Litigation – a powerful coalition of lawyers against Monsanto.”
While these lawyers are representing individuals and next of kin in cases suing for damages against contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma linked to using Roundup, these based on claims that that Monsanto knew about the relationship between this cancer and exposure to Roundup; they have too brought a class action representing parties, consumers who claim they would not have bought Roundup products if they had “known that glyphosate targets an enzyme that exists in the human body and the bodies of certain mammals, contrary to Monsanto’s marketing.” The Baum Hedlund call to action on their website continues that “anyone who purchased certain Roundup products can participate in the Monsanto class action over the misbranding of Roundup. Claimants are not required to prove that they suffered personal injuries as a result of using the product, only that they purchased the product.”
Crossing continents to Europe, practically PAN UK is calling for the end of glyphosate use through:-
- The immediate withdrawal of glyphosate from sale to the public
- An immediate end to the use of glyphosate in public spaces in towns and cities
- An immediate end to the use of glyphosate for pre-harvest desiccation – this is a practice where farmers cover a crop in glyphosate to dry it out so they can harvest it sooner. It leads to higher levels of glyphosate residues in our food.
- Rapid phase-out of glyphosate in agriculture and support to help farmers adopt safer approaches to managing weeds.
Here in Africa reflections beg the question of where the liability for glyphosate-linked disease, disability and death is going to stop? At Bayer AG/Monsanto, their agents, our farmers? How far down the line will chips fall, as this ruling, if upheld, is set to change the face of a large slice of commercial agricultural practice, after all, if upheld, anyone who uses glyphosate products from therein on uses them knowingly, knowing the product is deadly for mankind, not least of which it is too lethal for honey bees. And do we really need more fire to make a moral choice which whispers, ‘best not too, just in case’? Cause and Effect.