San Francisco, CA — Dewayne Johnson has successfully sued Monsanto for causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to glyphosate in its herbicide Roundup. According to Reuters, Monsanto has been ordered to pay Johnson $289 million in damages.
Bayer shares plummeted $12.5 billion (12%) the day after the verdict, while the company says it will appeal. Bayer bought the company in June for $62.5 billion and said it intended to stop using the Monsanto name.
Monsanto faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the U.S., according to Reuters; The Guardian cites Johnson’s lawyers as saying Monsanto faces 4,000 similar lawsuits; the Wall Street Journal quotes Monsanto as being aware of 5,200 similar lawsuits.
Johnson’s case was filed in 2016, but, according to Reuters, was fast-tracked due to the severity of his cancer. His doctors say he is unlikely to live past 2020.
Johnson, the 46-year-old father of three, was required to apply Roundup up to 30 times per year during his work as a groundskeeper for a California public school. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014.
Glyphosate is, according to The Guardian, the most widely used herbicide in the world, which Monsanto has been marketing as Roundup since 1974 as a weedkiller that would harm neither humans nor the environment.
One of the UK’s largest do-it-yourself retailers is reviewing the sale of Roundup weedkiller products amid mounting concerns about their use, reported The Guardian.
The science regarding glyphosate is inconsistent. A 2015 study published by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” A 2000 study by Gary M. Williams, et al, published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology came to the conclusion that, given the lack of “convincing” evidence for direct DNA damage, the multiple lifetime studies that have failed to demonstrate any tumorigenic potential for glyphosate, and the lack of toxicity in both acute and chronic studies, glyphosate is noncarcinogenic.
On the other hand, a 2015 study published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency for the World Health Organization, came to the conclusion there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma” from glyphosate. The Pesticide Action Network International published a 96-page report in 2016 covering the countries in which glyphosate has poisoned humans and the environment.
With one foot in each camp, a 2005 study by Anneclaire J. De Roos, et al, published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that the only association glyphosate had with any kind of cancer was a suggested association with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that targets plasma cells, as opposed to lymphatic cancer, which targets the lymphocytes.
Monsanto’s lawyer, George Lombardi, pointed out that scientific evidence says that glyphosate and glyphosate-based products don’t cause cancer, according to The Guardian, which also reported that Johnson’s attorney, Brent Wisner, brought as evidence internal Monsanto emails that proved that the company “rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years” and “fought science” while pursuing favorable research.
Wisner cited an email in which Monsanto employees brainstormed methods of combating critical studies, and decades-old emails in which Monsanto representatives began working on a press statement saying that Roundup carried no risk, right after a genotoxicity expert raised concerns about Roundup’s impacts on humans.