Ever since Dewayne Johnson won a landmark lawsuit against agricultural giant, Monsanto (now Bayer), people have been eagerly awaiting the response to thousands of other plaintiffs against the company. Now, a US jury has found that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused a second man’s cancer.
A federal jury in San Francisco ruled unanimously that the glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in California resident Edwin Hardeman. It’s the second time in eight months that a jury has reached such a decision.
Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller Causes Cancer
The pharmaceutical group Bayer (who bought out Monsanto to make them “look better” under a different name) has strongly rejected these claims since day one, stating that their glyphosate-based Roundup product is safe to use, and comes with no cancer risk.
But the six-member jury for Hardeman’s case thought the opposite, similar to the way Johnson was awarded about $80 million for his cancer case just a few months prior.
Tuesday’s verdict concluded the first of two phases in the federal case about the possible health risks of Roundup, and whether Monsanto misled Hardeman about those risks (1).
Hardeman used Roundup to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. He got diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015.
On Wednesday, Hardeman’s trial started its second phase, where the jury will decide if Monsanto should be held liable. If it’s decided that Monsanto is at fault, substantial financial damages could result. Not only will Monsanto have to pay his medical bills, but they will have to pay for an undetermined amount of damages.
Hardeman’s lawyers, Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore, said their client was pleased with the jury’s decision. “Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup,” they told the Wall Street Journal.
“We feel confident based on the evidence that a jury, when presented with all of the evidence, will see that Monsanto has committed 40 years of corporate malfeasance,” Ms. Moore told The New York Times.
Bayer said in a statement that they were disappointed in the jury’s verdict, and that “evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hademan’s cancer.”
“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 said. “Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
Bayer is now facing lawsuits from around 11,200 plaintiffs over the health implications of Roundup and Ranger Pro, it’s glyphosate-based weedkillers. If this verdict goes through, it’ll only mean bad news for Bayer (aka. Monsanto).
Bayer’s shares have recently plunged, dropping almost 12% to €60.83.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a herbicide that is applied to broadleaf plants and grasses to kill them. The sodium salt form of glyphosate is also used to regulate plant growth and ripen fruit.
The chemical was first registered for use in the United States in 1974, and is currently one of the most widely used agricultural herbicides in the world. It is also used recreationally on lawns and gardens, as well as for weeds in industrial areas. Glyphosate is currently used in over 750 products in the United States.
Why is Glyphosate Dangerous?
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency concluded that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen” (Group 2A Carcinogen).
Glyphosate stops a specific enzyme pathway called the shikimic acid pathway (2). This pathway is necessary for the growth of plants and some microorganisms. The issue here, is that the shikimic acid pathways is present in both human and other mammal’s gut bacteria. What does that mean in terms of health?
This pathway not only helps aid digestion, but it allows the gut macrobiotic to synthesize vitamins, detoxify xenobiotics, and participate in immune system homeostasis and gastrointestinal tract permeability (3). Without this pathway, issues in the gut can arise such as leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and more. It is also curious to note that incidence of bowel-related disorders have increased substantially over the last decade (coinciding with the use of glyphosate on food products).
Recent research published in February of 2019 found that Roundup increases the risk of some cancers by more than 40 percent (4). They found that the link between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is stronger than previously reported.
“Our analysis focused on providing the best possible answer to the question of whether or not glyphosate is carcinogenic,” senior author Lianne Sheppard, a professor in the UW departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Bio-statistics told ScienceDaily. “As a result of this research, I am even more convinced that it is.”
After examining epidemiological studies published between 2001 and 2018, the team determined that exposure to glyphosate may increase the risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41 percent. Their review focused on research in humans, and also from laboratory animals.
Glyphosate also negatively impacts the environment by disturbing the delicate microorganisms that live in the soil. By changing the balance of bacteria and fungi, glyphosate, in turn, modifies the way the ecosystem functions and how healthy a plant might become.
Common weeds that glyphosate targets are also important food sources for insect, bird and animal species who live in agricultural areas. Weeds provide food and nectar sources for insects, which in turn feed birds. Weed seeds are also vital winter foods for many declining bird species, such as corn bunting and the skylark (5).