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Bayer acquired agricultural giant Monsanto in June 2018 for around $66 billion. Since then, they have faced several headline-making courtroom losses. One of the reasons? Monsanto’s popular weed killer, Roundup, which has been under constant criticism as consumers allege that long-term use of the product has caused their various cancers. Thousands of Roundup users are fighting to take the manufacturer to court for its negligent marketing of the product as being safe.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup that is being called into question, was deemed “possibly carcinogenic for humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. Since this declaration, consumers around the world have come forward to tell their stories of how they developed illnesses and cancers from consistent Roundup use. Farmers, groundskeepers, and hobbyist gardeners alike have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, B-cell lymphoma, and leukemia, among other terminal illnesses.

The first man to take the company to court was Dewayne Johnson, a California school groundskeeper who regularly used Roundup on the campus properties he worked on. In one incidence, the product accidentally spilled on Johnson, and he simply washed it off, wrongly believing that it was non-toxic. In 2014, Johnson was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which he attributed to his frequent use of Roundup.

The San Francisco jury in this case decided in favor of Johnson, as they unanimously agreed that Monsanto failed to warn their customers of the potentially carcinogenic cocktail of ingredients that make up Roundup.

Evidence was presented in this case that Monsanto had “ghost written” various research on glyphosate, which undermined the credibility and truth of the research. This means that Monsanto faked studies and published material that was tailored to suggest that glyphosate was safe, and had notable scientists claim they had conducted the research, instead of Monsanto themselves.

Medical writer Dr. Katy Moncivais states, “It’s almost laughable to see the ways Monsanto affiliated individuals rewrote scientific conclusions.” She continued to say, “They included sweeping, absolute statements about Roundup posing ‘no cancer risk.’ But the actual study authors originally said things like ‘little likelihood of significant [risk] … under normal exposure conditions.’”

It was also revealed that the company colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency to suppress a review on glyphosate that came out from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The jury originally awarded Johnson $289 million, but this award was eventually reduced to $78.5 million. Johnson’s compensatory damages were reduced to match the punitive damages he was awarded, which was just $39.25 million. Bayer filed an appeal of this decision, stating that it stands by the product’s safety. Johnson has also appealed this reduction, in order to keep his $289 million jury award.

In the second case against Bayer, Edwin Hardeman was awarded $80 million as the jury believed his Roundup use was a substantial factor in his development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This case followed in-depth scientific studies conducted on the safety of glyphosate. These studies were brought into the courtroom to determine if there was a connection between glyphosate and cancer. One of the studies presented found that the specific chemical concoction that makes up Roundup is more toxic than glyphosate on its own to human placental, umbilical, and embryonic cells.

This was the first federal case against Bayer for Roundup, and it was declared a “bellwether trial,” meaning it sets a precedent for lawyers hoping to file more cases for similar lawsuits. U.S. Judge Vincent Chhabria, the judge on the case, also issued a formal order of mediation after this trial in an attempt to reach a settlement between the manufacturer and the lawyers representing the thousands of severely ill Roundup users.

In the most recent case, another bellwether trial, California couple Alva and Alberta Pilliod were awarded more than $2 billion in a jury award. Both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they fought against Bayer after attributing their development of cancer to their regular use of Roundup since the 1970s. According to the U.S. Right to Know report, the jury found that the manufacturer, “…engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud.” The jury continued, saying this was, “committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto.”

Soon after this decision, a mediator was appointed for future plaintiffs and Bayer by Judge Chhabria. In late May 2019, attorney Kenneth Feinberg was given the job to meet with Bayer’s lawyers and plaintiffs who claim Roundup use caused their cancers. Feinberg is expected to hopefully help both parties reach a settlement. 

Each day, the number of lawsuits pending against Bayer continues to rise around the world as more consumers come forward stating that they were harmed by Roundup. Bayer has announced that it will appeal all verdicts and that its product is not dangerous. Even though a mediator is now in the picture for future Roundup trials, the next one is set to begin in August.