The nation’s third Monsanto Roundup trial is now underway in California’s Alameda County Superior Court, where a new study linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was entered into evidence for the first time yesterday.
The Roundup lawsuit currently at trial was filed on behalf of Alva and Alberta Pilliod, an elderly California couple who allegedly used Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killer on a regular basis between 1971 and 2011.
Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, while Alberta received the same diagnosis in 2015. The couple filed suit in 2017, alleging that the herbicide caused their cancer. According to their attorneys, the odds that both would develop the disease is about 1 in 20,000.
The Court agreed to expedite the couple’s Monsanto Roundup trial last year, citing their advanced age and the possibility that their cancers could relapse.
Much of yesterday’s testimony centered on a recently published meta-analysis that suggested occupational glyphosate exposure increased the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%. The authors of the paper reviewed all previous glyphosate-cancer research, including the long-term Agricultural Health Study that Monsanto frequently cites as proof of the herbicide’s safety. However, they focused on groups with the highest rates of exposure.
An epidemiologist testifying for the plaintiffs said she trusted the findings, asserting the research team “really used the best exposure estimate.” She also characterized the Agricultural Health Study as flawed, arguing some participants were misclassified in a way that favors a finding of no carcinogenicity.
Bayer AG, which recently acquired Monsanto, is currently defending more than 13,000 similar Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts throughout the United States. Though two cases had previously gone to trial, the Alameda County jury was the first in the nation to hear about the latest glyphosate cancer findings.
The first Monsanto Roundup trial concluded last August, when a jury in San Francisco Superior Court ordered Bayer to pay $289 million to another plaintiff with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, the judge overseeing that case ultimately reduced the verdict to $78 million, after finding that punitive damages were excessive.
Last month, a second plaintiff was awarded $80 million in compensatory and punitive damages, after a jury in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, found that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in his Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The big jury verdicts have led many to question the wisdom behind Bayer’s $63 billion Monsanto acquisition. The German company’s share price has dropped sharply over the past year, forcing it to announce the elimination of some 12,000 jobs worldwide in a bid to improve profitability and calm investor nerves.
An activist shareholder even filed a motion of no confidence in Bayer’s board earlier this year, arguing that the company underestimated the financial implications of the Roundup litigation when it agreed to acquire Monsanto.