Monsanto ordered to pay $2bn in Roundup cancer case

A California court on Monday ordered Monsanto to pay $2.05 billion to a couple who claimed the company’s weed killer Roundup caused them cancer, local reports say.

The agribusiness company acquired by the German chemical company Bayer last year will appeal the ruling.

A court in Oakland found that 30 years of use of Roundup at their farms caused Alva and Alberta Pilliod to contract non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

The Pilliods were not the only victims and this was not the lone ruling against the company. More than 13,000 people have filed cases against Bayer in various courts in the US claiming its weed killers are posing a threat to human health and environment.

Monday’s ruling is the third major verdict against the company over problems related to Roundup.

In two earlier cases, a man and a former groundskeeper were awarded $80 million and $289 million respectively. A judge later reduced the award to the former groundskeeper to $89 million.

While Pilliods’ lawyers described Monday’s verdict as historic, legal experts said the $2.05 billion awarded to the couple may be significantly reduced after Bayer appeals the ruling.

Expressing its disappointment over the ruling, Bayer cited a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which said herbicide glyphosate used in Roundup is not carcinogenic.

This assessment was, however, disputed by local health authorities. They cited a finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 which said glyphosate probably can cause cancer.

The lawsuits against Monsanto claimed that the company manipulated agencies and media to bury the fact that glyphosate is carcinogenic.

A Bayer spokesman went to the extent of saying that Pilliods had a long history of conditions that acted as risk factors for NHL disease.

Bayer defended Monsanto by saying the agribusiness firm was unaware its product might contain carcinogens.

Bayer is also in trouble in France where an investigation is under way after it was found Monsanto tried to influence the views of journalists and politicians on pesticides.