The jury in the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co. court trial has found the company guilty of concealing the dangers of glyphosate, the world’s most widely-applied herbicide, and awarded the terminally ill groundskeeper total damages of USD 289 million.
The unprecedented August 10 verdict delivered by the San Francisco, California jury will weigh heavily on the more than 4,000 similar cases already lodged in the U.S. alleging a glyphosate link to the blood cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Monsanto, unsurprisingly, has announced it will appeal. Prior to Monsanto’s acquisition by Bayer, the company had set aside USD 258 million for litigation; Bayer had a fund of USD 447 million.
Based on the substantial number of internal company documents made public for the first time as part of the trial process, the jury determined that Monsanto knew of the potential health risks associated with glyphosate exposure yet acted with “malice or oppression” in failing to warn the public. The company papers abundantly document a protracted campaign by Monsanto to discredit independent research, capture regulatory bodies and defund the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Monsanto vice-president Scott Partridge denounced the verdict and attacked the IARC as “corrupted” because they do “no testing, they do no analysis, they have no laboratories” – the same procedure followed by the regulatory agencies Monsanto consistently sought for decades to influence, which rely on industry-funded research. In November 2015 the European Food Safety Agency gave glyphosate a positive recommendation for reauthorization, and even proposed increasing permissible exposure levels, based on sources it refused to disclose.
In his trial testimony, Johnson told the court “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm. It’s unethical. It’s wrong.”