• Pamela Froman

Monsanto Ruling

A landmark court ruling has stated that Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller was the leading cause of a former groundkeeper's terminal cancer. This court case is a truly monumental decision.

Dewayne Johnson won the case, primarily because the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from long-term exposure to the product. Johnson worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for a school district north of San Francisco where he was responsible for regularly spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds.

Johnson is the first person brave enough to fight back – and win – against the agrochemical corporation. He stated that his constant exposure to the chemicals caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer, and much pain and suffering. Johnson has only months to live, and his wife currently works two jobs to pay for his medical bills. Winning the case will help ensure his family has financial stability and allow them to pay those bills.

Johnson made a clear statement about the company within the court case. He testified that Monsanto should never have allowed him to use the herbicide around children, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

In the ground-breaking verdict the jury ruled that Monsanto was negligently responsible for not speaking up and warning about the dangers of its product. According to Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner, there was damning paperwork showing that the company knew of the cancer risk for decades. Internal emails from Monsanto employees demonstrated that the company repeatedly ignored health warnings, sought positive scientific evidence and promoted research that encouraged continued use. This evidence was a primary reason that the verdict against Monsanto succeeded and the hope is that similar victims will now come forward.

Johnson’s case took a step forward because a judge allowed scientific arguments about glyphosate, a widely used herbicide. Glyphosate is registered in 130 countries and authorized for use on more than 100 crops, but as of 2015, the World Health Organization’s agency for research on cancer (IARC) reclassified it as “probably carcinogenic.”

Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto responded to these allegations, stating that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer, saying that the product has “four-plus decades of safe use and science behind [it]”. He also said that the IARC “has been demonstrated as having been corrupted,” and that the organization has no research behind it and “simply renders an opinion.” While Patridge says he feels for Johnson, he says that Monsanto should not be liable for his cancer as the internal emails were “taken completely out of context.”

The ruling comes a month after a separate federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of deceased victims can also bring claims to trial. Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to start in the fall in St Louis, Missouri and according to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US. Monsanto plans to appeal.

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