The international urgency for an alternative to glyphosate is increasing with the news a California jury has awarded a total of $2 billion to a couple who claimed Bayer AG’s glyphosate based Roundup weed killer caused their cancer.
In the largest U.S. jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical, the Alameda County Superior Court jury in Oakland on Monday said the company Bayer, who purchased glyphosate Roundup, was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It awarded $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod, and $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to his wife, Alberta Pilliod.
The jury found Roundup had been defectively designed, that the company failed to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk and that the company acted negligently.
The German chemicals giant currently faces more than 13,400 U.S. lawsuits over the herbicide’s alleged cancer risk.
Bayer says that decades of studies by the company and independent scientists have shown glyphosate and Roundup to be safe for human use. Bayer also points to several regulators around the world that found that glyphosate was not carcinogenic to humans.
Brent Wisner, a lawyer for the Pilliods, at a news conference following the verdict said Bayer had to take responsibility for its product.
“Monsanto keeps denying that it causes cancer and these two fine people here are casualties of that deception,” Wisner said, standing next to the California couple, who are in their 70s.
Alberta Pilliod called on Bayer to add a warning label to Roundup, saying she and her husband would not have used the product had it alerted them to a cancer risk. “We’ve been fighting cancer for more than nine years now and we can’t do any of the things we wanted to do. We really resent Monsanto for that,” Pilliod said.
In March, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million to another California man after finding Roundup caused his cancer. The company also said it would appeal that decision.
The Pilliods allege the regular use of Roundup on their property between 1975 and 2011 caused them to develop cancers of the lymph system.
They filed their lawsuit in 2017 after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and 2015, respectively. Both of them are currently in remission, but their trial had been expedited due to the risk of a relapse and potentially short life expectancy.
Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that Monsanto had known about the herbicide’s cancer risk for decades, but failed to warn consumers and instead attempted to influence scientists and regulators to receive favourable assessments of its products. Bayer denies those allegations.
Lawsuits are largely based on a 2015 conclusion by the World Health Organisation’s cancer arm, which classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
A 2017 Reuters review found that the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer had dismissed and edited out "non-carcinogenic" findings that were at odds with its final conclusion that the chemical probably causes cancer.
The U.S. EPA, the European Chemicals Agency and other regulators have found that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans.
Story content includes information from US Legal News, Reuters. Written by Tina Bellon