Economy

Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million to cancer patient

Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million to cancer patient

In a stunning blow to one of the world's largest seed and chemical companies, jurors in San Francisco have told Monsanto it must pay $289m in damages to a man dying of cancer which he claims was caused by exposure to its herbicides.

The lawsuit brought by Dewayne Johnson was the first to go to trial among hundreds filed in state and federal courts saying Roundup causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict to his case against Monsanto at the Superior Court Of California in San Francisco, on August 10, 2018. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria had previously said there's "rather weak" evidence the ingredient causes cancer, but the opinions of three experts linking glyphosate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were not "junk science".

Monsanto has denied the Roundup causes cancer, but the jury, it seems, disagreed.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans and the European Commission says the European Chemicals Agency and other scientific bodies found no link to cancer in humans. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe.

Its attorneys say they have the bulk of scientific research firmly on their side, and that they will appeal against the verdict, meaning it could be years before Johnson and his family see a dime of the damage award.

Jurors in San Francisco found on Friday that the company had acted with "malice" and that its weedkillers contributed "substantially" to Mr Johnson's terminal illness. "This should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto".

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"I want to thank everybody on the jury..."

Johnson was awarded a total of about $39 million in past and future losses, both economic and noneconomic, but it was the $250 million in punitive damages that seemed to take the courtroom's breath away, as a sigh was heard on a video recording when Bolanos made the announcement.

"The Johnson v Monsanto verdict is a win for all of humanity and all life on earth", said Zen Honeycutt, founding executive director of non-profit group Moms Across America.

But Johnson's lawyer Brent Wisner said the verdict "shows the evidence is overwhelming" that the product poses danger. He sprayed large quantities from a 50-gallon (about 3.8 litres) tank attached to a truck, and during gusty winds, the product would cover his face, said Brent Wisner, one of his attorneys.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a draft risk assessment that the pesticide glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, was "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans".

According to his attorneys, Johnson read the label and even contacted the company after developing a rash but was never warned it could cause cancer.

Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. But, the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic".