– by Dr. Joseph Mercola –
In August 2018, a California jury found Monsanto (now owned by Bayer AG) negligent in the case of a man suffering from the effects of Roundup. The jury found Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” and was responsible for “negligent failure” by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of its widely used weed killer. The plaintiff, 46 year old Dewayne Johnson, was and still is dying from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Johnson handled and sprayed about 150 gallons of Roundup 20 to 40 times per year while working as a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District in California, from 2012 through late 2015. His lawsuit, filed in 2016 after he became too ill to work, accused Monsanto of hiding the health hazards of Roundup. The jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson, $33 million of which was noneconomic damages for pain and suffering. In October, the judge upheld the guilty verdict but reduced the total award to $78 million.
As expected, Bayer/Monsanto appealed. What’s shocking is the company’s argument for significantly reducing the damage amount further. In its appellate brief, the company asked for reversal of the damages awarded based on the fact that Johnson is near death.
The company is essentially guilty of killing Johnson 33 years before his time, if you assume he’d have a normal life span of 79. Now Bayer/Monsanto wants reduced damages because he’s only got less than two years to live. It’s a new low even for Monsanto.
11 thousand lawsuits
In March 2019, a U.S. jury ruled Roundup was a substantial causative factor in the cancer of a second plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman. Judge Vince Chhabria had approved Monsanto’s motion to divide the trial into two phases. The first phase limited evidence to that relating to causation only. In the second phase, jurors heard evidence related to liability. On March 27, the jury found Monsanto had acted with negligence and awarded Hardeman $80 million in damages, including $75 million in punitive damages.
A third case against Monsanto (Stevick et al v. Monsanto) was originally slated to go to trial May 20, 2019. However, Judge Chhabria recently vacated the trial date and ordered Monsanto/Bayer to begin mediation with all remaining plaintiffs in the federal multidistrict litigation overseen by him – some 800 in all. Aside from these, Monsanto faces roughly 11,000 additional plaintiffs who claim Roundup caused their Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In related news, documents unearthed during the many lawsuits against Monsanto (colloquially and collectively known as The Monsanto Papers) reveal the company tried to discredit the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). IARC scientists had reclassified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. They enlisted Reuters reporter Kate Kelland in its attempts to do so. Investigative reporter Carey Gillam writes:
“Not only did Kelland write a 2017 story that Monsanto asked her to write in exactly the way Monsanto executive Sam Murphey asked her to write it (without disclosing to readers that Monsanto was the source), but now we see evidence that a draft of a separate story Kelland did about glyphosate was delivered to Monsanto before it was published”
Another email suggests Monsanto was involved in crafting at least two other Kelland reports that were critical of the IARC, including her Special Report: How the World Health Organization’s Cancer Agency Confuses Consumers story, published in April, 2016. According to Gillam, Kelland also “helped Monsanto drive a false narrative about cancer scientist Aaron Blair in his role as head of the IARC working group that classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.”
Internal company correspondence shows Murphey sent Kelland talking points and a narrative he wanted her to use that included portions of a deposition Blair had given that was not filed in court. Kelland published the story, citing “court documents” as her source, when the source was in fact Monsanto.
“By falsely attributing the information as based on court documents she avoided disclosing Monsanto’s role in driving the story,” Gillam writes. “When the story came out, it portrayed Blair as hiding ‘important information’ that found no links between glyphosate and cancer from IARC.
Kelland wrote that a deposition showed that Blair ‘said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis’ even though a review of the actual deposition shows that Blair did not say that. Kelland provided no link to the documents she cited, making it impossible for readers to see for themselves how far she veered from accuracy.”
Kelland’s compromised story was widely used by Monsanto in its efforts to discredit IARC and strip them of U.S. funding. According to Gillam, Reuters editor Mike Williams and ethics editor Alix Freedman both stand by the misrepresentation of Blair and have refused to issue a correction.
EPA a Monsanto captured agency
Emails and internal documents also show high-ranking officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have protected Monsanto’s interests by manipulating or preventing key investigations into glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential. In other words, taxpayers’ money has been used to shield Monsanto from liability and obstruct consumers’ ability to prove damages.
Monsanto has defended Roundup’s safety in court by leaning on a 2016 EPA report that found glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic” to humans. A key author of the report was Jess Rowland, the deputy division director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). The EPA’s conclusion, which runs counter to the IARC’s determination that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic, met with severe criticism – so much so, a scientific advisory panel was convened to evaluate the strength of the EPA’s decision. According to some panel members, the EPA violated its own guidelines by discounting and downplaying data from studies linking glyphosate to cancer.
Email correspondence between Rowland and EPA toxicologist Marion Copley suggest Deputy Director Rowland colluded with Monsanto to find glyphosate non-carcinogenic. Copley cited evidence showing glyphosate is toxic to animals and accused Rowland of playing “political conniving games with the science” to help Monsanto. Rowland also warned Monsanto of the IARC’s determination months before it was made public, giving the company time to plan its defense strategy. Email correspondence also showed Rowland helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto’s behalf. In an email, Jenkins recounts a conversation with Rowland, in which Rowland said, “If I can kill this I should get a medal,” referring to the ATSDR investigation.
In correspondence between Daniel Jenkins, Monsanto’s manager for regulatory affairs, and Monsanto chief scientist William Heydens, Jenkins also confirms that Monsanto indeed had far more reason to worry about the ATSDR than the EPA, as the ATSDR had a reputation of being “very conservative and IARC like,” and “hazard based.”
In a 2017 Huffington Post article, Carey Gillam cites evidence showing Jess Rowland was not acting alone. Other high-ranking EPA officials also appear to have worked on Monsanto’s behalf, including Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Office of Pesticide Programs Director Jack Housenger.
“Rather than encourage and assist the toxicology review of glyphosate, Monsanto and EPA officials repeatedly complained to ATSDR and to the [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] that such a review was unnecessarily ‘duplicative’ and should take a back seat to an EPA review also underway,” Gillam writes.
The obfuscation seems to have worked. By October 2015, she says the ATSDR review was “fully on hold.”
Yet the damning evidence remains. Recent research shows the glyphosate used in Roundup has multi-generational effects. Pregnant rats exposed to half of the no-observed-adverse-effect-level of glyphosate between the eighth and 14th day of gestation had offspring with higher rates of birth defects, obesity, and diseases of the kidneys, prostate, testes, ovaries and mammary glands (breasts). Third generation male rats had a 30% higher rate of prostate disease than the controls, while third generation females had a 40% higher rate of kidney disease. Cancer increased in second-generation rats but not in the first and third generations. Eleven thousand lawsuits can’t be wrong.