Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages in Roundup cancer trial

Source: BBC.com

Crops are often treated with the herbicide glyphosate

Chemical giant Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289m (£226m) damages to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

In a landmark case, a Californian jury found that Monsanto knew its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers were dangerous and failed to warn consumers.

It’s the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging a glyphosate link to cancer.

Monsanto denies that glyphosate causes cancer and says it intends to appeal against the ruling.

“The jury got it wrong,” vice-president Scott Partridge said outside the courthouse in San Francisco.

The claimant in the case, groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, is among more than 5,000 similar plaintiffs across the US.

Correspondents say the California ruling is likely to lead to hundreds of other claims against Monsanto, which was recently bought by the German conglomerate Bayer AG.

Mr Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. His lawyers said he regularly used a form of RangerPro while working at a school in Benicia, California.

Jurors found on Friday that the company had acted with “malice” and that its weedkillers contributed “substantially” to Mr Johnson’s terminal illness.

Following an eight-week trial, the jury ordered the agricultural multi-national to pay $250m in punitive damages together with other costs that brought the total figure to almost $290m.

In a statement after the ruling, Monsanto said it was “sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family” but it would “continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others”.

The use of glyphosate has long been controversial.

Its toxicity is widely regarded to be low in the concentrations used by farmers, although the UN International Agency for Research on Cancer has called it “probably carcinogenic”.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans and the European Commission says the European Chemicals Agency and other scientific bodies found no link to cancer in humans.

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