An American couple have won over $2 billion from agrochemical giant Monsanto after a jury found its weedkiller Roundup liable for having caused their cancer.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who are in their 70s, had been using Roundup, which has glyphosate as its active ingredient, for over 30 years to landscape their garden and other properties. They were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that is associated with Roundup.
The verdict is the third successful court case against Monsanto, which is in the process of merging with fellow chemical giant Bayer. Former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson and Edwin Hardeman, who used the chemical at home, were both awarded compensation in trials earlier this year. Bayer-Monsanto is appealing all three verdicts but shares have plummeted as the cases gain widespread global media attention.
The Pilliod case, heard by a court in California, rested on documents showing Monsanto’s efforts to influence the US environment protection agency (EPA) and other regulatory agencies, as well as evidence that the company ran a PR campaign to plant favourable stories in other media outlets to defend its products and discredit scientists who determined glyphosate was linked to cancer.
Speaking after the verdict, co-lead trial attorney Brent Wisner said: “The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe. Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”
Michael Miller, who served with Wisner as co-lead trial counsel, added: “Unlike the first two Monsanto trials, where the judges severely limited the amount of plaintiffs’ evidence, we were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind.”
In a statement, Bayer said it is “disappointed” with the jury’s decision, and said it conflicts directly with the EPA’s recent re-registration of glyphosate and “the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely”.