Monsanto's new owner, Bayer, has been slammed with judgments in the first three Roundup lawsuits to go to trial. The verdicts, which have sided with plaintiffs in all cases so far, have found not only that Roundup herbicide caused the plaintiffs' cancers but also that Monsanto engaged in malice, oppression or fraud in their attempts to cover up Roundup's toxicity.1
Some of the evidence brought to light during the trials has been particularly eye-opening, including internal emails showing that Monsanto paid an industry front group for the favor of publishing pro-glyphosate media, right around the time the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined it to be a probable carcinogen.2
Monsanto paid front group for glyphosate-favorable content
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is a nonprofit organization that claims to be a "pro-science consumer advocacy organization" with the focus of publically supporting "evidence-based science and medicine." Their website states:3
"We do not represent any industry. We were created to be the science alternative to "news" that is often little more than hype based on exaggerated findings. We help policymakers see past scaremongers and activist groups who have targeted GMOs, vaccines, conventional agriculture, nuclear power, natural gas, and 'chemicals,' while peddling health scares and fad diets.
We fight back against activists who have attacked the credibility of the overwhelming consensus of academic and private sector scientists who dispute their claims, undermining the integrity of the scientific enterprise."
ACSH also claims to be funded mostly by readers, but their financial statements do not reveal who, exactly, their more than $1 million in yearly revenue comes from.4 In 2015, however, internal emails revealed that Monsanto contributed to ACSH, with impeccable timing, as IARC's glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) was set to be released.
The emails were first revealed as evidence during Dewayne Johnson's Roundup lawsuit. The trial, the first to be heard, ended with Monsanto being ordered to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson, although the award was later reduced to $78 million.
The evidence made another appearance during the third Roundup case, in which a married couple, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, claimed they both developed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma after regular use of Roundup. The jury decided in the Pilliods' favor, ordering the chemical giant to pay $2 billion to its victims.
In the emails, Dr. Daniel Goldstein, the head of medical sciences and outreach at Monsanto, wrote to colleagues about ACSH's value to the company, stating there was "some money set aside for IARC" and Monsanto "should go ahead and make a contribution" pointing out that they had "dozens of pro-GMO and glyphosate postings" in the prior year.5 The colleagues still weren't convinced, so Goldstein then wrote:6
"While I would love to have more friends and more choices, we don't have a lot of supporters and can't afford to lose the few we have … You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH: They are working with us to respond if needed to IARC …"
Days before IARC's ruling, ACSH asks for Monsanto's support
IARC's report determining glyphosate as a probable carcinogen was released in March 2015. Just days prior, Gilbert Ross of ACSH (who spent time in prison for defrauding New York's Medicaid program of about $8 million7) wrote to Goldstein, requesting Monsanto's support and stating:8
"… However it does get frustrating at times when we feel as though we can't count on the unrestricted support of a company like Monsanto — whose products and technologies are constantly vilified by activists groups but heralded by ACSH … As our revered, departed president Beth Whelan would often lament on these occasions, "If a company like X (X = Monsanto in this case) won't support us, then who will?"
In response, Goldstein states that Monsanto will contribute to ACSH, adding "definitely count us in!!" No dollar amount is given, so it's unclear just how much Monsanto paid for ACSH's continued defenses, but even a cursory glance at their site suggests it has worked in Monsanto's favor.
ACSH attacked IARC's findings as "scientific fraud," going so far as to call the cancer agency a "fringe group, seemingly more interested in scaring people than identifying actual health threats."9 ACSH has articles defending glyphosate's safety in terms of cancer, for bees and even in your food.10
"If You Accept Science, You Accept Roundup Does Not Cause Cancer," one article reads.11 Yet, more than 13,400 cases are currently pending against Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for about $63 billion, alleging that Monsanto's Roundup caused the plaintiffs' cancer and the company failed to warn consumers about cancer risks.
As mentioned, in the first three cases to go to trial, jury verdicts have overwhelmingly favored the plaintiffs, leaving Bayer saddled with billions in damages.