Should profit be put over consumer safety? Absolutely not. A jury in California found Monsanto responsible for negligence to communicate the possible dangers of their product to cause cancer. But, scientist and governments of Australia and the European Union have different opinions.
The active ingredient of Roundup is glyphosate, the controversial agrochemical in question. The present wave of legislative challenges started when its international agency for research of the World Health Organization suggested that glyphosate could probably be carcinogenic to humans. Monsanto produces 700,000 tons of glyphosate per year, and have been marketing Roundup since 1974, claiming that it could kill weeds without posing any danger to human health or the environment. Glyphosate represses some amino acids of plants to halt their growth and prevents photosynthesis. However, it has been reported to be poorly absorbed by human guts and skin, hence does not undergo accumulation in mammalian tissues. Monsanto claimed in2016 that glyphosate exhibited low toxicity to humans and non-plant wildlife upon short- and long-term exposures.
There is too much controversy throughout the world, whether Roundup is a weed killer or a killer weedicide. In defense, Monsanto’s lawyer alleged that there was no scientific evidence against glyphosate-based products for causing cancer to humans. In addition, the Australian government’s Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority does not consider the use of glyphosate as carcinogenic, if farmers follow the labeling and warning instructions. In Europe, there has been much ambiguity on this issue, as EU Commission has extended the license for glyphosate for further five years, but the European Parliament has called for its ban by 2022. The European Food Safety Authority concluded in 2015 that the peer review of EU experts did not find any evidence against glyphosate to cause cancer to humans, with an exception from one expert, hence could not classify it as a potential carcinogen.
The California jury was, however, comprehensively convinced that the chemical was responsible for causing non-Hodgkin lymphoma to the 46-year-old former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson. Johnson used to spray the herbicide near schoolchildren, on school grounds, and around people. The jury considered Monsanto liable for Johnson’s cancer, as the company acted with malice or oppression, and failed to warn the users of their product Roundup about potential health hazards upon short- or long-term exposure. Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner convinced the jury by showing the secret documents of Monsanto, which proved that the company was well aware of the potential of Roundup to cause cancer. The jury stated that the company ignored experts’ opinions and encouraged favorable scientific results to continue the usage of their agrochemical. Moreover, it was found that they bullied scientists, intentionally hid the scientific knowledge from the public and suppressed evidenced just to save their profit. Hence jury ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson a total of $289 million – $39 million in compensation to his pain and medical bills, while $250 million in punitive damages. However, a San Francisco judge slashed the damages from $289 to 78 million afterward.
The decision brought national attention to a very critical issue. However, the controversies throughout the world on this issue showed that the agrochemical giant, Monsanto, affected global opinion. The other side of the picture told that the scientific opinion was not the same on the other parts of the globe, especially in the EU and Australia. These chemicals are often suggested after Japanese knotweed identification has taken place, but caution is clearly needed.