In a few weeks, Monsanto will go on trial again. And when it does, the pesticide-maker won’t be able to suppress evidence that the company ghostwrote scientific studies and otherwise tried to influence scientists and regulators in an attempt to hide the potential health risks of its flagship product, Roundup weedkiller.
This week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, the federal judge in San Francisco overseeing 620 cases involving Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and cancer victims, ruled that the evidence could be introduced in the upcoming trial. According to a Reuters report, Chhabria said the documents were “super relevant.”
Chhabria’s ruling almost guarantees that the documents in question will play a role when, on February 25, a jury in San Francisco Federal Court, begins hearing the case of Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto. Hardeman alleges that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.
Hardeman’s case follows the August 10, 2018, $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) awarded to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who also sued Monsanto for causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto’s appeal of the $78-million judgment is still pending.
There are more than 9,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court. Reuters reported in November that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann called the lawsuits "nuisances." But the company’s stock took a big hit after the jury sided with Johnson, so shareholders probably aren’t thrilled with Chhabria’s ruling this week.
Meanwhile, in other bad news for Monsanto . . .
Here are a couple more developments that probably have Bayer wishing it never got tangled up with Monsanto:
• Although we're still awaiting official confirmation, word on the street is that Costco will discontinue retail sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers. Moms Across America reports that the product will not be on Costco shelves this spring. If true, this is a big deal that could lead other retailers, such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Walmart to follow suit.
• On January 15, a French court banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360 to professional gardeners and farmers in France. The ruling came less than a month after France banned all pesticides from public green spaces, and also banned over-the-counter sales of pesticides to home gardeners.
The court cited the failure of France’s food and environmental safety agency ANSES to weigh the potential safety risks of Roundup Pro 360, when the agency reauthorized its use, in March 2017.
• A new study published in Environmental Research and Public health reveals a link between premature death from Parkinson’s disease and exposure to glyphosate and paraquat. Glyphosate had previously been linked to Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.
The study analyzed people in Washington State living near land used for agricultural purposes. The authors said they hope their work “contributes to the wider discussion on the need to amend current pesticide regulations and public health policies.” The noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on glyphosate application are based on a risk assessment process that was conducted over 30 years ago.
Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.