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A California jury determined Monday that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide directly caused the same type of cancer in an elderly couple who used the weed killer for decades. Bayer, the company that purchased Monsanto last year, was ordered to pay more than $2 billion in damages to the couple.
After using Roundup for nearly 30 years for residential landscaping, Alva Pilliod was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. His wife, Alberta Pilliod, was diagnosed with the same type of cancer in 2015. Both are currently in remission.
On Monday, the jury in the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland awarded $1 billion in punitive damages and $18 million in compensatory damages to Alva Pilliod. His wife was awarded $1 billion in punitive damages and $37 million in compensatory damages.
“Unlike the first two Monsanto trials, where the judges severely limited the amount of plaintiffs’ evidence,” attorney Michael Miller told NBC News, “we were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind.”
In a recent statement, Bayer announced that the company is “disappointed” with the jury’s decision and plans to appeal the verdict in this case. Bayer added, “We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case.
“The contrast between today’s verdict and EPA’s conclusion that there are ‘no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate’ could not be more stark. EPA’s conclusion is based on a database of more than 800 studies on glyphosate and Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides that relate to human and mammalian health, and its 2017 cancer risk assessment also examined numerous studies in the open literature. In contrast, plaintiffs in this case presented the jury with cherry-picked findings from a tiny fraction of the volume of studies available, and that failed to adjust for exposure to other pesticides, did not have statistically significant results, had very small exposed populations and/or are at odds with the full body of science. Plaintiffs also relied heavily on IARC’s assessment of glyphosate from 2015. But as EPA noted, EPA’s cancer assessment was ‘more robust’ and ‘more transparent’ than IARC’s review, which considered only a subset of published studies included in EPA’s evaluation. IARC’s opinion remains an outlier among international health regulators and scientific bodies.”
“The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” an attorney for the couple, R. Brent Wisner, said in a statement sent to CBS News. “Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”
“We’ve been fighting cancer for more than nine years now and we can’t do any of the things we wanted to do,” said Alberta Pilliod. “We really resent Monsanto for that.”
Last year, school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson was initially awarded $289 million after a San Francisco jury found that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killers caused his cancer. A judge later reduced the settlement to $78.5 million, while Bayer has filed an appeal.
In March, a federal jury in San Francisco unanimously decided that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing Edwin Hardeman’s cancer. Bayer has been ordered to pay more than $80 million in damages to Hardeman while stating that the company plans to appeal this decision as well.