In what’s considered a landmark ruling, the Monsanto, the makers of “Roundup” weedkiller, have been ordered to pay out $289 million to an individual in the US who claims it has contributed to his cancer. Despite this, the company has insisted that the product is safe to use. Roundup remains one of the most popular weedkiller brands even though it contains the controversial herbicide glyphosate.
Environmentalists claim that glyphosate can be linked to cancer. This has been heavily disputed by manufacturers, and, after a long drawn out legal battle, the EU has approved the chemical for use. A recent report from the WHO and the UN also said that although there is “some evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in some studies, the only large study of high quality found “no evidence of an association at any exposure level”.
However, in this particular case the jury ruled that the weedkiller was a “substantial factor” in the claimant, Dewayne Johnson’s, illness. They also ruled that the company had failed to properly warned its customers that the product could be dangerous. This follows the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer’s reports that glyphosate is “probably human carcinogen”.
Mr Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma four year ago. He used Monsanto products, which included Roundup and Ranger Pro, in large quantities during his years working as a school caretaker. He frequently used the products in windy conditions, meaning that they came into contact with his face. He contacted the company after developing a rash, but was never warned about the cancer risks.
Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge said the company is planning to appeal the verdict. He said that they would “vigorously defend this product” as scientific research suggests that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer. He added: “We all have sympathy for what Mr Johnson is going through; cancer is a terrible disease. “I’ll tell you that this verdict doesn’t change the four plus decades of safe use and science behind the product. There have been over 800 medical scientific peer review published studies that have established there is no link whatsoever between glyphosate and adverse health effects, much less cancer.”