Chemical giant Monsanto ordered to pay cancer damages

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict to his case against Monsanto

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict to his case against Monsanto

A California jury on Friday found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by a man who alleged the company's glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, caused his cancer and ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages.

Monsanto has vowed to appeal the decision after the ruling, which said weed killer Roundup and the professional grade equivalent RangerPro had contributed to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson's terminal cancer. Regulators, however, have failed to heed the warnings of independent scientists for too long, even shrugging off the findings of the World Health Organization's top cancer scientists who classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

As part of his duties as groundskeeper at a California school, Johnson used Roundup between 20 and 40 times a year, sometimes "hundreds of gallons" at a time, according to his lawyer.

"I'm glad to be here to help with the situation after I learned about Roundup and glyphosate and everything", said Johnson after the verdict.

"Monsanto made Roundup the oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost", said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, a USA environmental organization that researches toxic chemicals and advocates for corporate accountability.

"A unanimous jury in San Francisco has told Monsanto: "Enough".

He added that the verdict sent a "message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits".

After Friday's verdict a company executive, Scott Partridge, maintained that glyphosate is "safe for use and does not cause cancer".

Mr Partridge said that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews and conclusions by regulators in the U.S. and around the world "support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer".

Monsanto in a statement said it would appeal the verdict.

"The jury sent a message to the Monsanto boardroom that they have to change the way they do business", said Robert F. Kennedy Jr - an environmental lawyer, son of the late United States senator and a member of Johnson's legal team.

In court, Johnson's lawyers said his industrial use of Roundup resulted in frequent bodily contact, including at least two work accidents in which he was covered with the chemical.

The dispute centred on glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide.

Mr Kennedy Jr, the son of the late United States senator, said: "I think the verdict is going to trigger a cascade of new cases".

In his closing argument, the plaintiff's attorney, Brent Wisner, told the jury it was time for Monsanto to be held accountable. "The majority of our illnesses and losses to soil quality, water, wildlife and marine life are due to toxic chemicals, particularly Monsanto's most widely used glyphosate herbicides like Roundup and Ranger Pro". Monsanto launched Roundup in 1976 and soon thereafter began genetically modifying plants, making some resistant to Roundup.

Monsanto always denied any link to the disease and said studies concluded the product was safe.

Monsanto was acquired by the German agrochemical giant Bayer AG in June, in a merger deal valued at $66 billion.

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