When California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) tried to add glyphosate to the state’s list of known carcinogens, Monsanto tried to stop the governmental agency by suing it.
Just recently, Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, was ordered to pay $2.5 billion in damages to a couple who was diagnosed with cancer after using the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. A jury in San Francisco ruled that the company had to be held liable for the pain and suffering endured by Alva Pilliod and his wife Alberta, who were never warned about the cancerous risks associated with the popular weed killer.
Despite Bayer’s will to appeal this verdict, the multinational was already ordered to pay another $159 million in damages in two other similar lawsuits filed by plaintiffs claiming that Roundup causes cancer. The company already lost an important bellwether trial a couple months ago, on March 27, 2019, when 70-year-old plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from California was awarded $80 million in damages. A serious hit for Bayer, who saw its shares fall down 5.9% in early trading this week – especially since the company recently bought Monsanto for a hefty sum ($63 billion). With over 13,400 lawsuits filed against the agrochemical giant across the whole country, the Roundup MDL has rapidly grown into one of the largest mass torts of the last few years.
Why is Glyphosate dangerous?
Roundup is the most popular weed and grass killer used across the globe, with nearly 250 million pounds of the product being sprayed every year on crops, gardens, lawns, parks and driveways. Earning Monsanto up to $5 billion in yearly revenues, Roundup has always been a best-seller whose safety has always been strenuously defended by the company. Glyphosate, the herbicide’s main ingredient, works by disrupting some essential plant enzymes while it is, at least in theory, harmless to humans and animals.
However, exposure to glyphosate may be dangerous, and, in some instances, even fatal. A number of independent sources found that glyphosate is associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including blood cancer (leukemia), Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, and B-cell Lymphoma. Since the public was never warned about this danger, many professional workers such as farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and park employees have been exposed to its harmful action without wearing adequate protection. According to the claims filed in court, these people’s lives could have been saved if Monsanto properly warned them.
Monsanto & Bayer’s responsibility
Among the reasons why Monsanto and Bayer have ultimately been held liable for the damage sustained by plaintiffs, court documents allegedly prove that the multinationals knew about the risks and voluntarily downplayed them to inflate profits. A previous investigation found that a number of ghostwriters were paid by Monsanto to remove any mention of glyphosate’s toxicity from the safety reports published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A serious accusation of what could be likely defined as conspiracy, since hiding these dangers may have exposed the public to serious health risks. When California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) tried to add glyphosate to the state’s list of known carcinogens, Monsanto tried to stop the governmental agency by suing it.