In my mind, the biggest update in the Roundup lawsuit is that their expected settlement value keeps rising. Here is what else is happening.
$289 Million Verdict Update
During a hearing on October 24th after the whopping $289 million verdict against Monsanto, a California trial judge issued a ruling reducing the verdict. This case, as you probably know if you are reading this, involved a man who was diagnosed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a couple of years after using Roundup several times a day while on the job as a school groundskeeper. The judge reduced what was previously a $289 million settlement to $49 million. They reduced the punitive damages to match the compensatory damages.
The plaintiff can refuse this remittitur and demand a new trial. But let’s be real. This guy is dying unless he can defy the statistics. Of course, he would like to get some of the money while he is still alive and accepting this decision is the best path towards that ends.
Meanwhile, Bayer will make that tough by appealing this case. They seem convinced that if they keep repeating the mantra that “glyphosate-based herbicides have been used forever and they must be safe” will somehow make it so. But the truth is that while it is true that Roundup can kill almost every weed, it cannot do that without causing harm to people. Am I 100% sure this is true? No. There are studies — many with dubious methodology and biased researchers — that find that Roundup does not cause cancer. But isn’t “probably” enough when people are dying?
What the Roundup Studies Show
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in a report authored by 17 experts from 11 countries determined that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic.” They ranked it as a Group 2a carcinogen.
The IARC concluded that the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure include non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers, including lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The American Cancer Society also listed glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. In turn, the plaintiffs’ lawsuits contend that Monsanto knows that Roundup is unsafe, but Monsanto continues to market and misrepresent its safety.
I think this is the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence and I think that juries will continue to agree with that premise. But Bayer will keep pushing the reports that question the causal relationship between Roundup and Cancer. In May 2016, the WHO and the United Nations concluded that glyphosates are “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure to the diet.” Another study, published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, found no connection between glyphosate and cancer. The study directly refutes IARC’s conclusions.
How did they reach these conclusions? The plaintiffs’ lawsuits allege that Monsanto promoted falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed its dangers.
Monsanto is certainly doing what it can on the PR side to push the issue their way. The company was involved in editing the Critical Reviews in Toxicology report that directly refutes the IARC. An attorney who is suing them released emails that detail Monsanto’s correspondence with an outside consulting firm. They include questions on how researchers could manipulate information in a favorable manner towards glyphosates.
The bias seemed questionable enough that the editors of Critical Reviews in Toxicology even released a statement. It refers to five articles they published that put into question links between glyphosate and cancer. This includes the article that refutes the IARC. They had requested information from each article’s author disclosing who was involved in drafting and editing them. They acknowledge that they had information for three out of the five. Of the two that they had no information on, this included the refutation of the IARC’s report.