Does glyphosate kill more than just weeds? A California jury has been convinced it does. The jury is so sure, it ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million US in damages to a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed killers caused his cancer.
This is precedent-setting; Monsanto faces more than 5,000 lawsuits in the US from people who claim to be seriously ill after using products such as Roundup, the most widely-used weed killer in the world.
Dewayne Johnson’s lawsuit was the first to go to trial. He’s so sick, his case was fast-tracked so he could be here to see what happened. He has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, and his doctors say he’s got months left to live. He’s 46-years-old.
Johnson alleges his cancer stemmed from his use of Roundup and Ranger Pro, two of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicides. A former school groundskeeper in California, Johnson says he applied the weed killers up to 30 times a year.
Jury deliberations lasted three days at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California. It finally found Monsanto hasn’t done enough to warn customers of any potential cancer risks its weed killers hold.
Johnson is getting $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages. Only, it’s not over yet. Monsanto says it’s going to appeal the verdict. The company stands by multiple studies that have shown glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer.
Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a 2017 study on the use of the weed-killing products by American agricultural workers found no link between exposure and cancer. It was thought that those findings would play a huge role in the result of the lawsuits pending against Monsanto, but the opposite has proven to be true. A dark cloud of doubt remains.
In fact, the World Health Organization still stands behind its 2015 assessment that described glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
And, the US government’s National Toxicology Program Laboratory is now investigating the potential health risks associated with the combined chemical formulas in herbicides and pesticides containing glyphosate. Early findings suggest those mixtures decrease human cell viability and are much more dangerous than glyphosate is alone.
During Johnson’s trial, jury members were privy to secret, internal Monsanto documents proving the company knew for decades that Roundup could potentially cause cancer and that executives repeatedly ignored those red flags, even going as far as to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged people to use the products.
Combine that with testimony from doctors, statisticians, and other experts who disagree with studies deeming glyphosate-based products to be safe, and the jury couldn’t help but hold Monsanto responsible.
Another Roundup cancer trial is set to begin this fall in St. Louis, Missouri. It will be interesting to see how that one and the next 5,000 cases play out.
It’s time we get to the bottom of this; we deserve to know once and for all if these widely-used weed killers are killing us too.