Dying Man’s Lawsuit Alleges Glyphosate Herbicide Caused His Cancer

Dying Man’s Lawsuit Alleges Glyphosate Herbicide Caused His Cancer
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DeWayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper for a California school district, is slated to take biotech giant Monsanto to trial over allegations that the company suppressed evidence that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its blockbuster herbicide RoundUp, has carcinogenic properties. [1]

Johnson, 46, was a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District in Solano County, California from 2012 to 2015. Part of his job involved spraying RoundUp on school properties. Johnson was healthy when he started the job, but he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in August 2014.

About 80% of Johnson’s body was covered in lesions by January 2018, a deposition of his physician shows. He is currently bedridden and unable to speak, despite starting a new treatment in January. Doctors have given him mere months to live.

In the lawsuit, Johnson alleges his cancer was caused by RoundUp, and that Monsanto knew the glyphosate-containing product posed serious health risks but chose to hide those risks through a campaign of misinformation and attacks on studies that warned about the dangers posed by glyphosate.

Read: Meta-Analyses Finds Link Between Glyphosate and Cancer of the Lymph Tissue

Back in 2015, it was said that a Monsanto employee let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that an entire department exists at the company for the sole purpose of discrediting negative glyphosate studies and critics of the chemical.

Johnson’s attorney, Michael Miller, said:

“Monsanto does not want the truth about RoundUp and cancer to become public. We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science.” [2]

Earlier in May, Judge Curtis Karnow ordered that jurors in the trial may consider scientific evidence concerning Johnson’s cancer as well as allegations that Monsanto knowingly suppressed findings indicating that glyphosate is carcinogenic in nature. Jurors may also consider punitive damages in the case, which is set to begin June 18. [1]

Monsanto had attempted to bar Johnson’s experts from testifying and his legal team from using certain studies to link his cancer to glyphosate exposure. [2]

Read: RoundUp Chemicals Linked to Cancer of the Lymph System

Karnow wrote in the order:

“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions. Thus there are triable issues of material fact.” [1]

Also earlier in May, a study authored by U.S. and European researchers was released, bolstering “persistent concerns about the pesticide’s impact on sexual development, genotoxicity, and intestinal bacteria, even when exposure is limited to a level currently considered ‘safe’ by U.S. regulators.” [2]

This Lawsuit is One of MANY

Johnson’s lawsuit is just 1 of close to 4,000 cases filed against Monsanto on behalf of plaintiffs or their families alleging RoundUp caused the NHL. One of those cases is scheduled to go to trial in October in St. Louis, home of Monsanto. [1]

Monsanto denies that RoundUp causes cancer and points to studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that glyphosate is not carcinogenic to support its stance.

However, in 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, and California did the same in 2017.

Monsanto intends to defend itself by blaming Johnson’s cancer on other factors, and will further dispute the scientific claims and studies cited in Johnson’s lawsuit. The company will also likely use expert testimony and studies like the EPA’s to bolster its defense.


[1] Mother Nature Network

[2] Common Dreams