May 14, 2019 09:50 AM EDT
A California jury awarded $2 billion to an elderly couple allegedly develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using Monsanto's popular weed killer "Roundup" for years. This delivered a major blow to the agrochemical company.
The jury found the company guilty as they failed to warn their consumers that Roundup could cause cancer, attorneys said. This is the company's third major loss in court in a series of lawsuits claiming that the herbicide was behind the development of cancer.
"Two billion dollars in punitive damages is as clear a statement as you can get that they [Monsanto] have to change what they're doing," Brent Wisner, who represented Alva and Alberta Pilliod, said in at a press conference. "Monsanto needs to change its conduct."
A spokesperson for Bayer, the parent company for Monsanto, stated that the company believed the $2 billion punitive judgement was unjustifiable and excessive and that they plan to appeal the decision of the jury.
"Bayer is disappointed with the jury's decision and will appeal the verdict in this case," the company said.
"We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but 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)," it said.
Bayer pointed to a recent statement from EPA or from the US Environmental Protection Agency released on April 30, which found that glyphosate posed no risk to public health.
"EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
The chemical, glyphosate, is the most commonly used herbicide in the United States, according to EPA and it is used on more than 100 food crops.
"If we are going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, we are going to need all the tools at our disposal, which includes the use the glyphosate," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said in April.
A 2015 report from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer contradicts EPA's findings as they found glyphosate as a chemical that is carcinogenic to humans.
Multiple cases are making their way to the court regarding this matter and documents are released in legal proceedings that have raised questions regarding the research of glyphosate. There are internal emails that suggest Monsanto had ghostwritten an research involving the chemical and a EPA official had moved to influence the reviews by the government agency. The EPA's office of inspector general is looking into the allegations.
Meanwhile, numerous environmental groups are satisfied with the results and applauded the jury's decision.
"Juries informed by independent science have repeatedly rejected the Monsanto-promoted myth that glyphosate poses no cancer risks," Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "It's telling that this important verdict comes just two weeks after the Trump EPA proposed to re-approve this cancer-linked pesticide as safe."
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