A closely-watched trial involving Roundup weed killer and its alleged potential to cause cancer entered its second phase Wednesday, when jurors in San Francisco federal court were told of Monsanto’s alleged efforts to manipulate science and conceal the health risks associated with glyphosate.
Plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, 77, used Monsanto Roundup for nearly 30 years as a home gardener before learning he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. The first phase of his trial concluded on Tuesday, jurors found that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in his cancer.
The same jury will decide the second phase, which is focused on liability and damages. To prevail, Hardeman must prove that Monsanto Roundup was defectively designed and that Bayer failed to warn consumers about its potential risks.
Because the trial’s initial phase only addressed causation, Hardeman’s attorneys could not present evidence of Monsanto’s alleged corporate misconduct. However, they have much more leeway to do so during the second part of the proceeding.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer, was designated a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.
Monsanto completely rejected those findings, however, and launched an aggressive campaign to discredit the IARC review. Among other things, the company funded research that ultimately led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conclude that Monsanto Roundup was safe.
On Wednesday, one of Hardeman’s attorneys asserted that Monsanto’s “cozy” relationship with the EPA allowed the company to manipulate the agency’s review.
Jurors also viewed a 2015 email in which a Monsanto toxicologist suggested the company “ghost-write” two sections of a study “by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak.” “Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro, 2000,” he continued.
According to Bloomberg News, Williams Kroes & Munro is a widely cited scientific review published in 2000 that found glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer.
Bayer, which recently completed its acquisition of Monsanto, faces more than 11,000 similar Roundup lawsuits in courts throughout the United States.
The nation’s first Monsanto Roundup trial concluded last August, when a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded $289 million to a former California groundskeeper with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, the presiding judge later cut the massive verdict to $78 million to comply with California limits on punitive damages.
Bayer’s stock price fell more than 12% Wednesday morning in reaction to Tuesday’s jury decision.