A federal jury in San Francisco unanimously decided that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing a California man’s cancer. The case is considered a bellwether trial for more than 1,600 other plaintiffs with lawsuits alleging that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.
In 1986, Edwin Hardeman began using Monsanto herbicides to treat poison oak, overgrowth, and weeds on his property until 2012. In February 2015, Hardeman was diagnosed with B-cell NHL after repeated exposure to the glyphosate in Roundup.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria stated in court, “Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”
After purchasing Monsanto in June, Bayer released the following statement on Tuesday: “We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer. We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. Regardless of the outcome, however, the decision in phase one of this trial has no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances. We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
According to Hardeman’s lawsuit, Monsanto had been aware of glyphosate’s carcinogenic properties since the 1980s. In March 1985, the EPA’s Toxicology Branch published a memorandum classifying glyphosate as a Category C oncogene, which is a possible human carcinogen with limited evidence of carcinogenicity.
In the second phase of Hardeman’s trial, the jury will be tasked with determining liability and damages. Hardeman’s attorneys, Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff, wrote in a recent statement: “Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup.”
Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer, is currently facing more than 10,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts for similar allegations of glyphosate and other ingredients directly causing NHL in consumers exposed to Roundup. Monsanto has been accused of failing to provide adequate warnings and safety instructions to consumers for decades.