Monsanto orders payment of $ 290 million in a Roundup cancer trial

The jurors unanimously determined that Monsanto, which promised to appeal, acted with "malice" and that its Roundup herbicides and the RangerPro professional grade version contributed "substantially" to Dewayne Johnson's terminal illness.

After eight weeks of trial, the San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $ 250 million in punitive damages along with compensatory damages and other costs, bringing the total figure to almost $ 290 million.

"The jury was wrong," company vice president Scott Partridge told reporters in front of the court.

Dewayne Johnson reacts after the verdict was read in the case against Monsanto in the Superior Court of California

Dewayne Johnson reacts after the verdict was read in the case against Monsanto in the Superior Court of California

Getty

Johnson, a California gardener diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells, says he repeatedly used a generic form of RangerPro while working at a school in Benicia, California.

The lawsuit was based on the 2015 findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the UN World Health Organization, which classified the main ingredient of Roundup glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, which makes the state from California do the same.

"We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family," Monsanto said in a statement promising to appeal the ruling and "continue vigorously defending this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and remains a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others. "

Stock Photo of Roundup herbicide.

Stock Photo of Roundup herbicide.

AAP

But Johnson's attorney, Brent Wisner, said the verdict "shows that the evidence is overwhelming" that the product represents a danger.

"When you're right, it's really easy to win," he said.

More to come?

Wisner called the ruling the "spearhead" of litigation likely to come.

The lawsuit is the first to accuse the product of causing cancer, but observers say a Monsanto defeat likely opens the door to hundreds of lawsuits against the company, which was recently acquired by Germany's Bayer.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – an environmental lawyer, son of the late United States Senator and member of Johnson's legal team – sat in the courtroom behind the dying man, who bowed his head.

Dewayne Johnson (C) hugs one of his lawyers, along with a lawyer and member of his legal team Robert F Kennedy Jr (R)

Dewayne Johnson (C) hugs one of his lawyers, along with a lawyer and member of his legal team Robert F Kennedy Jr (R)

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"I think the verdict will unleash a cascade of new cases," said Kennedy, who publicly defended the case.

"The jury sent a message to the Monsanto boardroom that they have to change the way they do business."

Partridge said outside the courthouse that Monsanto had no intention of resolving the large number of similar cases on the legal list, and said that otherwise the verdict would lead the company to work harder to prove that the herbicide is safe.

"It is the most widely used and widely studied herbicide in the world," said Partridge. "Today's verdict does not change science."

& # 39; Win for all humanity & # 39;

Before the jurors were to deliberate, Johnson's lawyer, Brent Wisner, asked that they hand over a "day of settling of accounts" for Monsanto.

"Science finally caught up, where they could not bury it anymore," Wisner told the jury in the final arguments.

Roundup is Monsanto's leading product, and glyphosate is reportedly the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

"The Johnson v Monsanto verdict is a victory for all of humanity and all life on earth," said Zen Honeycutt, founding executive director of the non-profit group Moms Across America.

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict of his case against Monsanto in the Superior Court of California

Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict of his case against Monsanto in the Superior Court of California

Getty

"Most of our diseases and losses in the quality of soil, water, wildlife and marine life are due to toxic chemicals, particularly Monsanto's most used glyphosate herbicides such as Roundup and Ranger Pro.

Monsanto always denied any link to the disease and said the studies concluded that the product was safe.

But the controversy has already damaged the reputation of the company.

Records previously disclosed by a federal court gave credibility to Johnson's claims: the company's internal emails with regulators suggested that Monsanto had written phantom investigations that were then attributed to academics.

Founded in 1901 in St Louis, Missouri, Monsanto began producing agrochemicals in the 1940s. It was acquired by Bayer for more than $ 62 billion in June.

Monsanto was one of the companies that produced the defoliant "Agent Orange", which has been linked to cancer and other diseases, to be used by US forces in Vietnam.

The company denies responsibility for how the military used the product.

Monsanto launched the Roundup in 1976 and shortly thereafter began to genetically modify the plants, which gave it some resistance to Roundup.