By JIM RUTLEDGE
BERLIN — Lawsuits continue to mount against the Monsanto Co., now part of Bayer AG, since a California jury ordered a $289.2 million landmark award to a former groundskeeper dying of cancer, that it determined was caused by the ingredients in Monsanto’s flagship weed killer, Roundup.
Before the jury victory in August, the number of lawsuits stood at 5,200, but in the days since the number of lawsuits has grown to 8,700, the majority coming from three states – Missouri, Delaware and California – Bayer has said.
The U.S. EPA concluded a year ago that the weed killer’s main ingredient, glyphosate, was not likely carcinogenic to humans. Roundup has been the subject of intense study by health organizations around the world after a unit of the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2015 that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic.
A year later, in a WHO joint report with the United Nations, another in-depth study found glyphosate “is unlikely to post a carcinogenic risk to humans.”
The California jury determined the company’s Ranger Pro and Roundup products presented a “substantial danger to consumers and that Monsanto knew or should have known of potential risks and failed to warn consumers like Dewayne ‘Lee’ Johnson (the plaintiff).”
Johnson, 46, was employed by a public school district in the San Francisco Bay area and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury deliberated three days before awarding him $39.2 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages. He claimed that years of applying the two chemicals around school properties had caused his incurable cancer.
In most cases, records show that large jury awards are often ultimately reduced and in some cases, overturned. Bayer called the verdict “wrong” and said it would appeal.
In a statement, Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge said, “We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family” but added numerous scientific studies and health authorities in the United States and other countries found no link between glyphosate and cancer.
Bayer declined comment to Farm World with respect to the increasing number of lawsuits. The Leverkusen, Germany-based company instead referred requests for comment to more than 800 studies it cited that found glyphosate was safe to use.
The next case is set to go to trial later next month in Missouri, but Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann said earlier this month the trial likely won’t start until early next year.
Bayer’s $63 billion takeover of Monsanto closed on June 7 following two years of intense regulatory review, during which the company had to sell billions of dollars of assets to win over antitrust regulators in Europe and the U.S.