Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – Agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology firm the Monsanto Company was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to a school pest control manager who claimed the company’s “Roundup” weed killer caused his cancer now in the terminal stage.
A California jury on Aug. 10 found in favor of Dewayne Johnson, 46, whose lawsuit is the first to go to trial alleging glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) causes cancer. Johnson’s doctors said he is unlikely to live past 2020. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide.
Monsanto still has to contend with more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States, and more major losses such as this will run the company out of business. The company had revenues of $14.6 billion and a net income of $2.3 billion at the close of its 2017 fiscal year in August.
Johnson was awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages by the jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California. The jury deliberated for three days before ruling Monsanto failed to warn Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers such as Roundup and Ranger Pro, which also contains glyphosate.
Filed in 2016, Johnson’s case was fast-tracked for trial because of the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph system) he alleges was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro. A former pest control manager for a California county school system, Johnson applied Roundup up to 30 times per year.
Jurors for the first time had seen internal company documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer, said Brent Wisner, one of Johnson’s lawyers. Wisner called on Monsanto to put consumer safety first over profits.
During the four-week trial, jurors heard testimony by doctors, public health researchers, epidemiologists and other experts who disagreed on whether glyphosate can cause cancer.
Monsanto said it will appeal the verdict. “Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews … support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer,” said Monsanto.
Monsanto also denies that glyphosate causes cancer and says decades of scientific studies have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.
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