Buzzfeed: Monsanto Ordered To Pay $2 Billion To Couple With Cancer

The jury award marked the latest and most devastating blow to the agrochemical giant over its popular Roundup brand weed killer.

Published by www.BuzzFeedNews.com 13 May 2019 at 18.42 GMT-5

Written by:

Salvador Hernandez BuzzFeed News Reporter

Stephanie K. Baer BuzzFeed News Reporter

A California jury awarded $2 billion on Monday to an elderly couple that developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after years of using Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup, delivering a major blow to the agrochemical giant.

The jury found the company failed to warn consumers that Roundup could cause cancer, attorneys said, dealing the company its third major loss in court in a series of lawsuits claiming 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.”

Haven Daley / AP

A spokesperson for Bayer, the parent company for Monsanto, told BuzzFeed News the company believed the $2 billion punitive judgment was “excessive and unjustifiable” and it planned to appeal the decision.

“Bayer is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal the verdict in this case,” the company said.

“We have a 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.

In response, Bayer pointed to a recent statement from US Environmental Protection Agency released 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 is the most commonly used herbicide in the US, according to the agency, and it’s 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 [sic] glyphosate,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said in April.

The EPA’s findings would contradict a 2015 report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which found glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans.

As multiple cases make their way to court, documents released in legal proceedings have also raised questions regarding the research of glyphosate. Internal emails and suggest Monsanto had ghostwritten research involving the chemical and that an EPA official had possibly moved to influence reviews by the government agency.

The EPA’s office of inspector general is reportedly looking into the allegations.

Meanwhile, environmental groups applauded the jury’s decision Monday.

The Pilliods bought their first home in 1982, attorneys said, and later bought four more properties. From then on, the couple used Roundup about once a week for about nine months a year until they were diagnosed with cancer. Attorneys said the couple sprayed their properties with the weed killler regularly thinking it was safe.

“Nobody ever told them it was dangerous,” Michael Miller, another attorney who represented the couple, said. “They saw ads on TV. They thought they could trust the company. They were wrong.”

Alberta Pilliod continues to need about $20,000 a month in medication, including chemotherapy, to fight a brain tumor that has been detected twice, her attorney said.

“We wish that Monsanto had warned us ahead of time of the dangers of using Monsanto and that there was something in the front of their label that said ‘Danger, may cause cancer,'” Alberta Pilliod said at the press conference. “It’s changed our lives forever. We can’t do the things that we used to be able to do, and we really resent Monsanto for that fact.”

Embedded video

Monday’s decision is the latest and most devastating blow to the company, which is facing thousands of similar cases.

In August, a San Francisco jury handed an unanimous decision to award $290 million to Dewayne Johnson, who claimed the active ingredient in Roundup — glyphosate — caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphona.

Monsanto said it planned to appeal that decision, with its vice president declaring “the jury got it wrong.”

In March, a federal jury again found that the herbicide played a significant role in causing Edwin Hardeman, 70, to develop cancer.

In the most recent case, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, of Livermore, California, claimed that after using Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties, they were both diagnosed with the same type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Alva was diagnosed in 2011, while Alberta Pilliod was diagnosed in 2015.

On Monday, a jury handed down a $2.055 billion decision in favor of the Pilliods, including $1 billion each in punitive damages against Monsanto.

Brent Wisner, one of the attorneys who represented the Pilliods, said this most recent case not only sent a message to Monsanto, but to the EPA, which he accused of helping hide the effects of glyphosate.

“For 45 years the EPA has been saying it doesn’t cause cancer,” Wisner said. “They’d have to come to grips that they have blood in their hands.”

MORE ON THE MONSANTO LAWSUITS

A Blog Looking Back at the Cooperation of The Crowd and the Bees

25 March 2019

By Andrea Carta, Greenpeace EU Senior Legal Strategist

My collaboration with “The Crowd Versus” began in September 2016. At that time, I was providing EU law expertise to Greenpeace International, who had intervened in a case that Bayer and Syngenta had started against the EU Commission: the two agrochemical companies were trying to annul a regulation that prohibited the use of three active substances for pesticides (neonicotinoids), which the Commission found to be harmful for bees. 

Together with other NGOs engaging in the protection of bees and pollinators (Bee-Life.eu, Bugslife.org, and Pesticides Action Network-Europe), we decided to intervene in the proceedings in support of the Commission’s ban.

The Crowd Versus made their platform available for a fundraising campaign, to help us pay the costs of the court intervention and to provide communication opportunities around the case. 

Getting the fundraising campaign started was a relatively easy process. The Crowd Versus uses a simple and transparent standard agreement and it provides the parties with all the basic information to develop the crowdfunding page. At the design stage, requests for input on Greenpeace’s side were minimal, and limited to a short description of the legal case and to some pictures. 

The Crowd Versus produced a dedicated webpage and a video. It also took care of the launch of the crowdfunding via social media like Facebook and Twitter. Communication was regular and all the adjustments that proved necessary (text, timeline and target) were made practically in real time. 

On 29 September 2016 we were online and the campaign ended on 15 February 2017 with € 1.680 and 85 individual donors, most of which from the Netherlands, where The Crowd Versus is based.

Considering that we were practically running a pilot, and that The Crowd Versus was mainly counting on its own audience, I think the result of this short campaign was encouraging, even if it did not reach the target that we had initially set. 

What could have we done differently to achieve the target?

Based on my experience with the bees’ case, I think that, beyond a thorough preparation, communication is the factor that can determine the success of a crowdfunding campaign. Here are my two advices:

Communicate frequently and widely around the case

This should be easier for grassroots organisations, whose main focus is on one legal cases (or a small number of them), than for large organisations like Greenpeace, who have many campaigns and initiatives running at the same time. 

Find a way to make (administrative) law appealing

Administrative law is already boring for law students. Don’t expect it to be entertaining for the public unless you put some serious work on it!

Beyond a doubt, our case was important from both the legal and the environmental perspective. However, mobilising supporters was very difficult, given that cases before the EU Court of Justice are very slow, very technical and very quiet. 

With a well-designed and planned communication strategy, a crowdfunding campaign can bring, in addition to the monies that are necessary to run a legal case, a valuable opportunity to mobilise around it and turn a lawsuit into a real campaign.

BIO

Andrea Carta works as Senior Legal Strategist for the European Unit of Greenpeace, where he advices on a broad range of EU environmental law issues, including pesticides, GMOs, energy, access to justice, illegal timber imports and trade policy.

The Crowd vs. GM Corn in Mexico

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The Crowd vs. GM Corn in Mexico

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