Dewayne Anthony Lee Johnson, or Lee as he likes to go by, remembers the day of the accident like it happened yesterday. That was the day a sprayer broke that he was using to apply Roundup to the grounds of the California school grounds he maintained.
The Roundup – or the “juice” as Johnson called it – went everywhere; drenching both him and his clothes. It wasn’t long before the small rash he developed advanced into lesions forming on his lips, face, arms, and legs.
Much has been made of the story of the groundskeeper who took on Monsanto and won. In a real-life telling of the tale of David and Goliath, Johnson sued Monsanto – the maker of Roundup and one of the world’s most controversial and secretive corporations – over claims that glyphosate present in Roundup caused him to develop a terminal case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His case was predicated on the idea that contrary to Monsanto’s claims, glyphosate is harmful and dangerous and not only did Monsanto know that but went to extraordinary lengths to cover it up and influence the public and scientific discourse about its product.
The judge in the case agreed that the source of the information Monsanto was using in its defense should be considered rather than just accepted at face value. And, for the first time, the world got an unfiltered view into the inner workings of the Monsanto machine. The view was not a flattering one, and in the end a jury awarded Johnson over a quarter of a billion dollars.
That award was later cut to $78 million and Monsanto has said that it will appeal that award as well. Monsanto, even in the face of previously un-seen levels of exposure into the questionable methods it employs in the production and marketing of its products, appears willing to continue its appeals until Johnson and his family are left with nothing.
Indeed, much has been made of the story of the groundskeeper who took on Monsanto and won. And much will continue to be made of the tale. Johnson says that he has received multiple offers for the rights to tell his story. And, with legal proceedings still under way, this story is still far from over. But, the most powerful version of it comes directly from Johnson himself and it should be read by everyone who seeks insight into the true impact of corporate greed and influence on our lives.
The piece can be read here.