Roundup manufacturer Monsanto is to appeal against the verdict of a court case in the USA which saw it being ordered to pay damages of $289 million – more than £220m – to a former school groundsman who claimed its glyphosate herbicides were the cause of his terminal cancer.
Dewayne Johnson, who is suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, took the company to court in San Francisco claiming that exposure to the active substance in two of its herbicide products, including Roundup, that he had applied in the course of his work had resulted in his illness. His case, which concluded in August, is the first in what is said to be thousands of cases pending in America.
In a statement Monsanto vice-president Scott Partridge said the jury’s decision “does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews – and conclusions by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world – support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer.
“We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use.”
Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides applied preplanting for edible crops, outdoor ornamental plant production and in amenity areas. Its EU licence was renewed for five years last year instead of the 15-year period which is standard for reauthorisation.
The UK’s Crop Protection Association said: “No regulatory agency in the world classifies glyphosate as a carcinogen. Those with an ideological opposition to pesticides should not use this case to further their agendas by misrepresenting the science.”
Soil Association head of policy Emma Hockridge said pesticide regulations needed a thorough rethink, adding that a lot more should be done to help the agriculture industry improve the practical alternatives to herbicides that organic farmers have pioneered.