A jury in a second case, this one in federal court, has reached the conclusion that the weed killer Roundup causes cancer, according to numerous news outlets. The second stage of the trial began yesterday — in this phase, the jury will decide whether Monsanto is liable. However, the decision is significant because there are thousands of other similar cases pending in state and federal courts around the country and this determination of causation could have an impact in the other cases. This is the second time Monsanto’s product has been found to cause cancer — in the first case, decided last year, a jury found Roundup caused cancer in a school groundskeeper and he was ultimately awarded $78 million in damages.
A report published in 2015 by the World Health Organization found that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
But Monsanto has long maintained that Roundup does not cause cancer, and said the IARC report is greatly outnumbered by studies saying glyphosate is safe.
- The plaintiff in this case is Edwin Hardeman, 70, who argued that he used the weedkiller on his 56-acre Sonoma County property for decades and that “was a significant factor” in his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015.
- The judge divided the case into phases because he wanted the jury to look specifically at the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer before delving into the many allegations of alleged corporate misconduct by Monsanto.
According to CNN, a 2015 internal email message stated that an EPA official at the time offered to help influence the government’s review of glyphosate, saying “If I can kill this I should get a medal.” However, Monsanto denies it used any undue influence to get favorable treatment from EPA or any other agency of the government. These emails and other evidence of Monsanto’s efforts to influence the science and the government’s assessment of glyphosate were a large factor in the first jury verdict against Monsanto.
Why This Matters: Monsanto and its parent company Bayer may deny it is harmful, but municipalities and school boards all over the country are limiting or banning Roundup based on these decisions, according to the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The City of Miami just took this step and others are expected to follow suit given the raised awareness now that Roundup has been “found guilty” again. What is particularly disturbing here is the effort by Monsanto and its lobbyists to influence the EPA’s science. This is exactly why we need the Scientific Integrity Act recently introduced by Senator Schatz and Representative Tonko. The scientists in the government must follow science, not corporate money, in making their decisions.
To Go Deeper: You can read the string of Monsanto emails in this 2017 story from CNN – it is worth your time. And watch the interview below with the first plaintiff who said the case was never about the money. To see the email documents themselves, click here.