First Roundup Case Goes to Court, But the Jury Is Still Out on Whether it Causes Cancer

Brielle Urciuoli

For years, controversy has been surrounding the agricultural chemical giant, Monsanto, over whether or not its popular herbicide, Roundup, causes cancer.  For Dewayne Johnson, a California resident with late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the debate hits close to home.

And now, it’s about to hit the courtroom.

Johnson is the first of hundreds of patients to take Monsanto to trial, claiming that Roundup caused them to get cancer. His case will be seen even sooner than others because in California dying plaintiffs can be given expedited trials.

According to his lawyer, Timothy Litzenberg, Johnson, who is 46 years old, worked closely with Roundup as a pest manager for a school system in the California Bay Area. He reportedly used the herbicide about 20 to 30 times a year.

Johnson represents, “more than 2,000 non-Hodgkin lymphoma sufferers who used Roundup extensively,” Litzenberg said in a CNN Newswire article.

The Cancer Debate

The research community has not definitively linked Roundup and other similar herbicides to cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate – the key ingredient in Roundup – as a Group 2A “probable carcinogen” to humans. This means that there is limited evidence of a substance causing cancer. There may be a positive correlation, but other confounding factors cannot yet be ruled out.

In their 2015 classification report, the IARC wrote, “For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada and Sweden since 2001.”

The report did go on to say that glyphosate exposure caused cancer in lab animals in a study conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby.”

After the IARC published its ruling on glyphosate, Monsanto published a statement disagreeing with the Category 2A classification.

They wrote in the April 2017 release, “Based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, Monsanto strongly disagrees with the IARCs classification of glyphosate.”

“Importantly, the IARC overlooked decades of thorough and science-based analysis by regulatory agencies around the world a selectively interpreted data to arrive at its classification of glyphosate. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen.”

This will be the stance that Monsanto’s legal team takes in court.

“We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause. We look forward to presenting this evidence in court,” Scott Partridge, the vice president of strategy at Monsanto, said in a statement.

More Patients Follow Suit

Johnson is not the only one claiming that his cancer was a result of dealing with Roundup. In fact, there are reportedly more than 800 individuals with cancer who are suing the agricultural giant for the role it played in developing their disease.

The Miller Firm, LLC, has a team of lawyers – including Litzenbug – who are taking on these cases across the country. Their website claims that Roundup/ glyphosate can cause both non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma.
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