A David and Goliath Story — With some Twists
Plaintiffs in these high-profile cases are a mix of professional and amateur groundskeepers, landscapers, gardeners. They have used Roundup for decades and claim that their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that can be fatal, was caused by the glyphosate in Roundup.
(This is the same weed killer that kills the milkweed that Monarch butterflies depend on to survive.)
Monsanto, the manufacturer, is now owned by Bayer, so this is the Goliath that must take the hits.
If ever there will be any hits.
At first Bayer dismissed the cases as “nuisances.”
Only three cases have gone to court so far. But the verdicts have been stunning. Juries awarded millions in damages, two billion in one case. (Even-handed judges have reduced awards, but they are still in the millions.) Bayer is appealing.
To this day Bayer insists that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
Jurors and plaintiffs disagree. Studies presented during trials convinced them that indeed glyphosate is poisonous. They are angry. They’ve been misled, lied to and taken for fools by Monsanto/Bayer, and the verdicts mirror their disgust.
Internal company documents, unofficially called the “Monsanto Papers,” revealed that scientists were bribed and bullied, reports were ghost-written or buried, and employees colluded with regulators. Said one of the judges: “There was nothing suggesting that anybody at Monsanto viewed this issue objectively or with any consideration for the life of human people.”
Now Bayer is whining about unfair adverse publicity and blaming junk science for distorting facts.
To date, there are three big wins, no losses. Clearly, the Davids have the advantage. The slingshots are primed and aimed.
But not yet free to fire. Goliath is flexing his muscles.
Behind the scenes Bayer is muscling in on the courts. A fourth case, to be tried in Monsanto’s home town of St. Louis has been pulled from the docket. Stays are being granted for many other cases.
The Environmental Protection Agency has never formally ruled on the safety of Roundup. Instead, the Agency maintains glyphosate poses “no risks of concern to human health” and is “not a carcinogen.”
So it is no surprise to learn that EPA has now become an ally of Bayer. In an incredible turnabout, EPA and the Dept. of Justice have joined hands to file court papers in support of Bayer as it tries to reverse a California jury’s award of 25 million to a cancer victim.
But burying so many lawsuits is an impossible feat, even for a Goliath like Bayer. The conglomerate is now agreeing to mediation, though with the proviso that settlements will be financially reasonable and that there will be a cap on future liability. Mediation will no doubt drag on for years.
Bayer is confident. With allies in government and strong demand for Roundup by US farmers and property owners, to the tune of 26 million pounds a year, the company’s bottom line will not suffer.
Goliath appears to be winning, despite slingshot buckshot that’s taking the shine from his armor.
Most discouraging: Even if we Davids choose not to use Roundup in our gardens, we are getting a dose of the poison every day in foods that we eat. Glyphosate is routinely sprayed around crops to kill weeds and directly on some crops before they are harvested.
Most encouraging: Some slingshot buckshot is coming from, of all companies: Kellogg’s. The cereal producer plans to stop using glyphosate before harvest on all of its crops. Surely more companies will follow?
Slingshot buckshot is being fired from other directions. A peach farmer in Missouri is suing Bayer for damage to his orchards from dicamba, yet another Monsanto product that is combined with Roundup for extra punch. Trouble is, dicamba drifts uncontrollably and has contaminated farmfields and settled on dwellings in the south.
Slingshot buckshot is being fired on PCBs, too. Four states and ten cities are suing Bayer over PCBs produced by Monsanto for more than half a century from the 1920’s until they were banned in 1979. PCBs, widely used in industry, have polluted our waters and tainted our seafood. Monsanto knew for half a century how deadly poisonous they were.
Enjoy your apple a day the Monsanto/Bayer way.