During the closing statements of the first federal bellwether case over Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, attorneys for the plaintiff said the pesticide was considered a “significant factor” in causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a California man.
The plaintiff is 70-year-old Ed Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California, who suffers from cancer. He testified during the trial that he used Roundup on his 56-acre property to kill weeds and poison oak for more than 25 years.
The spray frequently came in contact with his body, on his face and skin. Hardeman was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in 2015.
Monsanto has been emblazoned in court proceedings over its controversial pesticide. In 2018, a state jury slapped Monsanto with a $289 million verdict over claims from a school groundskeeper who claimed the use of Ranger Pro caused his cancer. A state judge later reduced it to $78 million.
Monsanto was labeled as causing “decades of scientific deception and the devastation”, according to one of the plaintiff’s attorneys.
An expert at the trial estimated Hardeman sprayed approximately 6,000 gallons of Roundup herbicide over the course of his life. An “extreme” exposure to Roundup, according to Hardeman’s attorney.
One of the main controversies surrounding the Roundup product is a chemical component called glyphosate. The World Health Organization has stated it is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Monsanto didn’t call to the stand any experts in pesticide use. Rather, one of the agrochemical giant’s experts admitted they never studied the health impact of pesticides.
Dr. Alexandra Levine, a cancer expert called to trial by Monsanto, didn’t even know Roundup was considered a pesticide. She attempted to make Hardeman’s chronic Hepatitis C the culprit of his NHL diagnosis, which she gathered based on his medical records.
But Hardeman was cured of his Hepatitis C in 2006, nine years before his NHL diagnosis in 2015.
Levine admitted she doesn’t necessarily ask her cancer patients if they have been exposed to pesticides, despite rebukes towards the plaintiff’s medical experts.
Various experts that had depth and knowledge about the correlation between cancer and pesticides were brought in on Hardeman’s side. Their conclusions were backed up with studies and reports on the topic.
One such conclusion was an epidemiological study, known as McDuffie study, which indicates there is a 212 percent risk increase of developing NHL from using Roundup more than two days per year. Additionally, the McDuffie study concludes that Roundup causes genetic damage in the blood system.
Additionally, a 1997 report conducted by Dr. James Parry, who was hired by Monsanto at the time. In his report, Parry said there is “strong evidence that glyphosate may be genotoxic.”
The jury was asked to examine 1985 toxicology documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which concluded that glyphosate is a Category C “possible oncogene”, with potential to cause cancer.
In January, Monsanto requested a bid for the court to rule in favor of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which would preempt consumers’ claims that the company failed to warn about cancer in its Roundup herbicide.
However, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied the bid. There have been three other bellwether suits against Monsanto, including the one with plaintiff Hardeman that is currently on trial in San Francisco before Judge Chhabria.
At the beginning of 2019, the US Justice Department cleared Bayer AG to acquire Monsanto Co. for $62 billion. The company says it is confident it will prevail at the trial.
There are more than 600 Roundup product liability cases consolidated in the Northern District of California. The second federal bellwether trial is scheduled for May 2019.
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