On 10 August this year, a California jury ruled that Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, who was formerly a groundskeeper of a school near San Francisco. The jury directed Monsanto, the agricultural biotechnology corporation that owns Roundup, to pay Johnson $289 million—Rs 2116 crore—in punitive and compensatory damages. In his court testimony, Johnson said he worked with the herbicide 20–30 times a year and was soaked with the product on at least two occasions. In 2014 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare type of cancer.
The key ingredient in the herbicide is a controversial chemical called glyphosate, which has been under scrutiny by governments and international public-health organisations because of its potentially toxic impact on humans and the environment. For instance, a 2013 study by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research concluded that Roundup “poses the risk of serious human health hazards including cancer.”