Thu, Aug 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Jurors deliberate in Roundup trial

GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS:Losing the trial would open Monsanto to hundreds of lawsuits that could force it to change its practices regarding health dangers

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

The lawyer for a California groundskeeper dying of cancer on Tuesday urged jurors to make Monsanto pay hundreds of millions of US dollars for failing to warn about the health risks of weed killer Roundup.

“Today is their day of reckoning,” attorney Brent Wisner told jurors as he urged them to impose a penalty of more than US$400 million on Monsanto for hiding the cancer-causing potential of Roundup and commercial-strength version, Ranger Pro.

“Every single cancer risk found had this moment, where the science finally caught up, where they couldn’t bury it anymore,” he added.

Terminally ill Dewayne Johnson watched as his attorney accused Monsanto of putting profit over people’s health by fighting research signaling Roundup’s potential cancer risks and failing to issue warnings.

Johnson, 46, testified that he would never have used Roundup or Ranger Pro had he known it could lead to his illness.

The monthlong trial pits Johnson against the agrochemical colossus acquired in June by Germany-based Bayer in a deal valued at about US$62 billion.

Diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Johnson used Ranger Pro repeatedly in his job at a school in Benicia, California, after being promoted to groundskeeper in 2012.

Monsanto opted against warning consumers of the risks and instead “fought science” by playing down the suspected link between the chemical herbicide and cancer, Wisner said.

The case is the first to reach trial alleging a cancer link from Roundup.

The legal clash involves dueling studies, along with allegations that Monsanto thwarted potentially damning research.

“There was a lot of high rhetoric here about just how terrible things are at Monsanto,” defense attorney George Lombardi said during closing arguments. “Unless [Wisner] can tie it to Mr Johnson’s cancer, none of this means anything.”

Wisner accused Monsanto of attacking research using the same tactics previously employed by other businesses to conceal proof of the health hazards of tobacco, benzene and asbestos.

“They are using the same playbook,” Wisner told reporters outside the courtroom. “We know how the tobacco story ends and we know how the Monsanto story will end at some point in my lifetime.”

Johnson was drenched with the weed-killer twice when spraying gear malfunctioned, according to testimony at trial.

He called the Monsanto hotline, but received no follow-up calls from representatives, despite promises they would do so.

Instead, Monsanto started plotting defenses for Roundup, ghost-writing research and citing it, Wisner said.

The active ingredient, glyphosate, combined with other chemicals resulted in a cancer-causing “synergy,” Wisner said.

A key to Johnson’s case would be whether jurors are convinced that Monsanto’s pesticide caused or exacerbated his illness.

“We don’t have to show Roundup was the sole cause; we only have to show it is a contributor,” Wisner said.

Glyphosate’s cancer links have been a source of long debate among government regulators, health experts and lawyers.

If Monsanto loses, the case could open the door to hundreds of additional lawsuits against the company.

“Your verdict will be heard around the world,” Wisner told jurors. “Monsanto will have to finally do something — conduct those studies they never conducted and warn those people they never warned.”

Jurors were to return to the San Francisco courtroom early yesterday for instructions from the judge before commencing deliberations.

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