Roundup: Would a $1-billion punitive damage award change things?

In January 2015, a Monsanto executive wrote an email that many have taken as a “smoking gun.” He was writing about the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s review of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

“IARC- they are sending delegates (trying to get names) that are knowledgeable re- gly from EDSP [endocrine disruption] and oncogenicity [tumor-causing] standpoint,” he wrote, seemingly worried those delegates might rule that glyphosate causes cancer.

A Monsanto toxicologist responded, “The one billion-dollar question is how could it impact?” The possible implication being that he feared a billion dollars in consequences.

One billion is a number that changes things,” said the attorney for a California couple who say they both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup for decades. They’re hoping a jury will issue a $1-billion punitive damages award to punish Monsanto for knowingly selling a cancer-causing product without warning consumers.

They both claim they would never have used Roundup had they been warned of the cancer risk, but since Monsanto resisted (and continues to resist) labeling the product as cancer-causing, they made their choice about Roundup without crucial information.

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, multiple studies over the past four decades have shown that Roundup causes certain cancers in humans. And, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization, ruled that Roundup is a human carcinogen.

There have been at least two prior verdicts ruling that Roundup caused the plaintiffs’ cancer.

Here, both husband and wife developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, allegedly after using Roundup for decades. While both of their cancers are in remission, they’ve each developed permanent brain damage and other long-term health effects.

Monsanto notes that Roundup is approved by the EPA and several other regulatory bodies worldwide. And, the EPA recently announced that it does not believe Roundup causes cancer, despite research to the contrary and the IARC ruling.

The plaintiffs pointed to evidence that Monsanto repeatedly interfered in regulators’ efforts to determine whether Roundup caused cancer. These included, in one instance, having a Monsanto toxicologist get a job at a lab performing tests for the EPA. Shortly after he was hired, he falsified data. He was later convicted of fraud.

The plaintiffs also accuse Monsanto of falsifying or ghostwriting other studies to keep Roundup from being labeled a human carcinogen. And, when they could not get positive data accepted, they delayed regulatory reviews.

Besides the $1-billion in punitive damages, the plaintiffs are seeking approximately $250,000 in economic damages, $2.9 million for future medical costs and $18 million in non-economic damages.

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