A California groundskeeper’s case alleging that frequent exposure to glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has gone to trial.
A San Francisco jury is currently hearing the case of Dewayne Johnson. As a groundskeeper with the San Francisco Bay Area school district, Johnson would frequently spray large amounts of the chemical-laden product on the grounds he tended to. He read Roundup’s warning label thoroughly and completely; even to the point of contacting Monsanto when he noticed that he’d developed a rash. According to his attorney, neither the warning label nor his direct contact with Monsanto over the rash resulted in any kind of warning that he was putting himself at risk of developing cancer.
Johnson’s case is far from the first lawsuit faced by the secretive and powerful genetic and agribusiness corporation. It is, however, a lawsuit that is unique in its approach. Johnson’s attorney plans to introduce internal Monsanto communications into evidence that had not been included in previous attempts to hold the corporation accountable for its actions. While evidence presented in previous cases has been limited to studies and other types of scientific findings, no one had ever taken the origins of those studies into consideration. In fact, much of the research may have been influenced, conducted, and presented by Monsanto itself.
In writing his decision to allow the evidence in the trial, the judge stated that “the internal correspondence noted by Johnson [the plaintiff] could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic…but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions. Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”
It appears that not only is Monsanto going to trial in the Johnson case, but so is an entire cornerstone of its defensive strategy.