(Phillip Schneider) In a truly landmark case, chemical and biotechnology company Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million to a California man in reparations for the cancer he received from Monsanto’s herbicide ingredient Glyphosate.
Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, a time which his lawyers say he was actively using RangerPro, a Monsanto herbicide which uses glyphosate as its active ingredient.
After an eight-week trial, California jurors decided that the company had acted with “malice” and that their products had “substantially” contributed to Johnson’s cancer, ordering them to pay $250 million in punitive damages along with other costs bringing the total cost to $289 million.
Being the first trial on glyphosate’s link to cancer, the jury set a strong precedent by ruling that Monsanto had known about the impact of their products on human health but failed to properly warn the public.
“[Evidence exists] proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer.” – Brent Wisner, Johnson’s lawyer
After the ruling, Monsanto released a statement saying that although they were “sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family,” the company would “continue to vigorously defend this product.”
“Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews – and conclusions by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world – support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer.” – Monsanto
As the outcome of this case sets a dangerous legal precedent for the company, Monsanto plans to appeal the case as they continue to deny any link between glyphosate and cancer.
However, as many would point out, the science surrounding glyphosate is anything but settled. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet Oncology which declared glyphosate to be a ‘probable carcinogen’.
“This latest finding, which links Monsanto’s Roundup to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer is not the first to make these links, but it is one of the strongest indictments of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.” – Ronnie Cummins, international director for the Organic Consumers Association.
Many argue that science concerning the health impacts of Monsanto’s products is nothing near settled. As the company has been caught paying scientists to ‘educate’ people about GMO’s in the past, much of the public believes that the line between authentic science and corporate propaganda has been blurred.
In 2017, a federal court released a series of documents which included internal emails between the company and federal regulators, suggesting that Monsanto had ghostwritten research papers which were later attributed to academics. The documents were released based on litigations brought forth by individuals who also claimed to have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from the use of glyphosate.
The court records also reveal that former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deputy director Jess Rowland had notified Monsanto prior to the litigation, resulting in a “public relations assault” from Monsanto executives. Rowland was quoted as saying “if I can kill this, I should get a medal.”
The government has also never seriously investigated the alleged crimes and misconduct of Monsanto either, as the EPA continues to argue that “glyphosate products can be safely used by following label directions” and no government agency tests off-the-shelf foods for glyphosate levels.
Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner believes that the verdict shows the “overwhelming” evidence that glyphosate is dangerous.
“When you are right, it is really easy to win … [This case is just] the tip of the spear”