Hundreds of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits continue to move forward in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, where a closely watched bellwether trial began yesterday.
The trial is the nation’s second to test allegations that glyphosate caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and comes just six months after a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded $289 million at the conclusion of the first Roundup cancer trial.
According to his complaint, Edwin Hardeman regularly used “large volumes” of Monsanto Roundup weed killer to control poison oak and poison ivy on his property beginning in the 1980s. The California resident received his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in 2015, at the age of 66.
Hardeman claims that glyphosate caused his lymphoma. He further alleges that Monsanto manipulated scientific research and unduly influenced regulators to conceal this danger from the public and protect sales of its hugely popular herbicide.
“There is a mountain of evidence,” Hardeman’s attorney told reports outside court on Monday. “This company needs to get straight and be honest with its customers and say, listen, there is evidence it’s associated with cancer and let people make a choice about whether or not they use the product.”
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, maintains that glyphosate is safe.
Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s. Its Roundup products are now available in more than 160 countries, making glyphosate the most popular herbicide in the world. In the United States, Monsanto Roundup is widely used by both home gardeners and in agricultural settings.
In March 2015, however, the World Health Organization’s International Agency (WHO) designated glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. The WHO acted after its independent review linked glyphosate to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Monsanto disputed these findings and began and aggressive campaign to discredit the findings.
Last year, Critical Reviews in Toxicology issued a highly unusual “Expression of Concern” to clarify Monsanto’s significant role in 5 glyphosate studies that contradicted the WHO findings. Monsanto’s involvement wasn’t disclosed when the papers were initially submitted to the journal, or published in September 2016.
Most recently, a study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, suggested glyphosate exposure increased the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%.
Bayer quickly issued a statement that criticized the latest study as a “statistical manipulation” that suffered from “serious statistical flaws.”
Despite its denials, the German company currently faces more than 8,000 lawsuits nationwide that allege Monsanto Roundup caused cancer.
Bayer’s stock suffered last August, after the first Roundup cancer trial ended with a $289 million plaintiffs’ verdict. Although the presiding judge eventually reduced the massive verdict to $78 million, she upheld the jury’s finding that glyphosate exposure caused the former California groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hardeman’s is the first Monsanto Roundup lawsuit to go to trial in a federal multidistrict litigation that includes around 760 cases. As a bellwether trial, the eventual outcome could provide clues as to how other juries might decide similar glyphosate claims.
Unlike the first case, however, this Roundup cancer trial is proceeding in two phases. The first phase will focus on causation, or whether glyphosate caused Hardeman’s cancer.
The second will focus on Bayer’s liability, but will only go forward if the jury finds for Hardeman in the first phase.