By Heather Callaghan, Editor
The battle has begun in one of the most historical David vs Goliath trials.
It’s the long-awaited trial of the millennium featuring dying man and school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who is taking Monsanto to task, arguing that the chemical giant’s Roundup herbicide is to blame. The lawsuit officially kicks off today in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California on Monday and is the first to go to trial of cases in which thousands of plaintiffs across the U.S. claim the glyphosate-based herbicide caused cancer.
The suit that started in late June is full of the drama that one would expect in case of this magnitude, including attempts by the corporation to cry victim and attempt to muzzle the mainstream press.
Johnson’s attorneys expect their opening statements to last 1 1/2 hours while Monsanto’s attorneys expect their to take 1 1/4 hours.
Opening statements are slated for Monday in the landmark legal case that for the first time puts Monsanto and its Roundup herbicide on trial over allegations that the company’s widely used weed killer can cause cancer.
Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a San Francisco-area school groundskeeper who used a form of Roundup regularly at his job, will face off against the global seed and chemical giant in a trial expected to extend into August. Johnson hopes to persuade a jury that Monsanto, which last month became a subsidiary of Bayer AG, is to blame for the non-Hodgkin lymphoma that doctors have said leaves him only weeks or months left to live.
Hints of the courtroom drama to come unfolded over the last week of June as jury selection dragged on for days, with Monsanto claiming widespread bias among prospective jurors. A number of the members of the jury pool, Monsanto’s attorney said, revealed in jury questionnaires that they view Monsanto as “evil.” Some even said they believe the company has “killed people,” a Monsanto attorney lawyer told San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos.
Monsanto claims that its employees have received threats such as postcards and argued that the judge should not allow any televised broadcast of the trial for the safety of its employees. However, Judge Bolanos ruled that opening statements, closing arguments and verdict can be broadcast.
Monsanto’s attack strategy on Johnson will be to:
- Argue there is no justification for any claims
- Deny any causal relation of product to cancer
- Demonstrate that science is “on its side”
- Cite regulatory findings, animal testing and research studies
- Attempt to prove that Johnson’s cancer could not have developed so quickly after use of product, and is unrelated
Recently, internal corporate records revealed that Monsanto was “ghostwriting” certain studies, which, could have influenced scientific data, academia and the media with false information. (This revelation, of course, would turn Monsanto’s argument on its head…)
Gillam continues in her report:
Many of those internal corporate records are expected to be a key part of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s attorneys say they have evidence that Monsanto has long known that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are carcinogenic and have hidden that information from consumers and regulators. They allege Monsanto has manipulated the scientific record and regulatory assessments of glyphosate in order to protect corporate glyphosate-related revenues. Monsanto knew of the dangers and “made conscious decisions not to redesign, warn or inform the unsuspecting public,” the Johnson lawsuit claims.
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of ScienceIf they can convince a jury of the allegations, the lawyers say they plan to ask for potentially “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Johnson’s lawsuit against Monsanto makes him one of roughly 4,000 plaintiffs who sued the company after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in March 2015. The IARC classification was based on a review of more than a decade of published, peer-reviewed scientific studies analyzing glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides. Johnson’s case is the first to go to trial. Another is scheduled for trial in October in St. Louis, Missouri.
Monsanto argues there is no justification for any of the claims, and asserts it has decades of regulatory findings of safety and hundreds of research studies to back its defense. “Glyphosate is the most tested herbicide in history,” Monsanto stated in its trial brief.
Along with Johnson, his family, doctors, scientists and expert witnesses, “Johnson’s attorneys intend to present video depositions of 10 former or current Monsanto employees, and of former Environmental Protection Agency official Jess Rowland, whose relationship with Monsanto has sparked allegations of collusion and an inquiry from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General.”
Johnson’s attorneys will attempt to demonstrate that Johnson’s rashes appeared right after using Monsanto products and affected his lymph system. Records indicate that Johnson called Monsanto but was never notified of any cancer risks using the product.
As our readers already know, the company formerly known as Monsanto vehemently denies caner risk and successfully fought to keep cancer warnings offthe Roundup label.
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