In a 68-page decision, US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ordered that lawsuits against Monsanto, the manufacturer of weed killer and carcinogenic Roundup to move forward.
Chhabria is presiding over more than 450 cases against Roundup maker Monsanto that are part of multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California. The lawsuits against the agrochemical giant allege that glyphosate caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a cancer that affects a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. The cells are known as lymphocytes.
The decision is a blow to Monsanto which sought to dismiss the Roundup lawsuits as well as disqualify the experts who testified that the chemical that make up the popular weed killer can cause cancer in humans.
In addition to the federal cases in the MDL, lawsuits have been filed in state courts in Missouri, California, Montana and Delaware. The state case in California was filed by Dwayne Johnson whose case against Monsanto went to trial a week ago.
As a school groundskeeper, Johnson used Roundup large quantities from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck. Johnson read the label carefully and even contacted the company after developing a rash, but he was never warned it could cause cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 42.
The trial is expected to last about a month. Johnson is seeking unspecified damages against Monsanto.
If it loses this battle, Monsanto and its new corporate parent, German chemical giant Bayer, which closed its $60 billion acquisition earlier this month, could face billions in lost revenue. Monsanto doesn’t break out sales of glyphosate, Roundup delivered $4.8 billion in revenue in 2015. In its latest fiscal year, Monsanto cited higher global sales of glyphosate for helping lift total revenue by 8 percent.
The outcome of Johnson’s case will not affect the hundreds of other lawsuits in state and federal courts, but it may serve as an indicator of how the others might go.
Glyphosate was developed and used by Monsanto beginning in the 1970s, and the weed killer is now sold in more than 160 countries. Farmers in California, the most agriculturally productive state in the U.S., use it on more than 200 types of crops. Homeowners use it on their lawns and gardens.
The herbicide came under increasing scrutiny after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015.
A flurry of lawsuits against Monsanto in federal and state courts followed, and California added glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Monsanto has attacked the international research agency’s opinion as an outlier.
Once again, we see a corporate giant attempting to deny science in order to protect their bottom line. The lawsuit in state court in California and federal lawsuits filed in the MDL will seek to protect citizens from harmful chemicals.