Monsanto to pay US$289 million over weed killers that caused cancer

Daniel Fowler
August 11, 2018

The maker of Roundup weedkiller has insisted British consumers are safe to use the product after a USA jury backed a groundsman's claim the pesticide contributed to his terminal cancer. "Hopefully, this thing will get the attention it needs so folks can make a good choice".

A San Francisco court was told how Dewayne Johnson has a terminal form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which he claims developed after he worked as a pest control manager at a school.

Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG for $62.5bn in 2017, said it will appeal the verdict which awarded Johnson $39m in compensatory and $250m in punitive damages.

Monsanto has denied a link between the active ingredient in Roundup - glyphosate - and cancer, saying hundreds of studies have established that glyphosate is safe.

The German company, which owns agriculture giant Monsanto, says herbicides containing glyphosate are safe.

In a statement after the ruling, Monsanto said it was "sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family" but it would "continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others".

The verdict against the corporation sends a clear "message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits".

"The jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life", one of Johnson's attorneys, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., said.

In one instance a hose broke and the weed killer soaked his entire body.

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The jury ordered the agricultural multi-national to pay $250 million in punitive damages together with other costs that brought the total figure to nearly $290 million.

"We hope that this is just the first of many defeats for Monsanto, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will pull this product off the market immediately".

Johnson said he hoped his verdict would bolster the other cases.

The lawsuit built on the conclusions in 2015 of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the UN World Health Organization, which classified Roundup's main ingredient glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, causing the state of California to follow suit.

Public liability lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, Dimi Ioannou, said the findings of the USA case would make glyphosate "a long-standing issue".

File Photo: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson listens as attorney Brent Wisner (out of frame) speaks about his condition during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco, California, US, Jul 9, 2018.

Roundup is one of the country's most popular weedkiller brands, while glyphosate herbicides are the most widely used herbicide in United Kingdom agriculture.

They said he even once contacted Monsanto after developing a rash, and wasn't told of any risk, the AP reported.

Jurors also found that the potential risks of the product were known by the scientific community and Monsanto failed to "adequately warn" of the danger.

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