Third Jury Rules Roundup Caused Cancer, Orders Bayer to Pay $2 Billion
A third jury ruled that Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller caused cancer Monday, awarding a California couple more than $2 billion in damages. Not only is it the largest award in a Roundup trial to date, it is also the largest U.S. jury award this year and the eighth-largest product-defect award ever, Bloomberg reported.
"We really wanted to tell Monsanto, 'Cut it out, do better,' and we wanted to get their attention," juror Doug Olsen told Bloomberg of the award.
.@Bayer Ordered by Jury to Pay $2 Billion Damages in #Roundup Trial. Via @business https://t.co/PKOKEzmDqH "It’s t… https://t.co/Cp71jB8CEE— Gary Ruskin (@Gary Ruskin)1557783236.0
Alva and Alberta Pilliod used Roundup on their property for more than three decades before they were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Reuters reported. The jury ruled that Roundup had been defectively designed and that Monsanto failed to warn customers of the cancer risk and acted negligently. In total, they awarded the couple $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensation. The $2 billion is likely to be reduced due to Supreme Court rulings that limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages at 9:1. However, the Pilliod's lawyer R. Brent Wisner urged the jury to award a large amount in order to send a message to the company, The New York Times reported.
"Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe," Wisner said in a post-verdict statement reported by The Guardian. "Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda."
The judge in the Pilliod's trial allowed lawyers to present additional evidence not admitted in the first two Roundup trials, showing how Monsanto attempted to influence research into the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
"We were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto's manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup's severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind," one of the couple's attorneys, Michael Miller, said in a statement reported by The Guardian.
In a statement following the trial, Alberta Pilliod urged Bayer, who acquired Monsanto last year, to add a health warning to the product, saying she would not have used it if she had known of the risks.
"We've been fighting cancer for more than nine years now and we can't do any of the things we wanted to do. We really resent Monsanto for that," Pilliod said.
The verdict spelled further trouble for Bayer. Its shares have fallen 40 percent since it purchased Monsanto, The New York Times reported. After Monday's verdict, its stock fell to its lowest point in nearly seven years, according to Bloomberg.
This is the third Roundup trial since Bayer acquired Monsanto. In August 2018, a California jury said Roundup use caused the cancer of a Bay Area groundskeeper. Then, in March, the jury in the first federal Roundup case also ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The company faces more than 13,400 similar lawsuits in the U.S.; the next will take place in a Missouri state court in August, Reuters reported.
In a statement following the verdict, Bayer pointed to an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaffirming its previous finding that glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans.
"The contrast between today's verdict and (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's) conclusion that there are 'no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate' could not be more stark," Bayer said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Bayer's full statement on the jury's verdict in the glyphosate trial taking place in the California Superior Court… https://t.co/wcgfMidEDx— Bayer US (@Bayer US)1557782825.0
Most of the trials are based on a contrasting 2015 finding from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which ruled glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The product has lost a great deal of credibility. Bloomberg reported that following the verdict, an anonymous juror told the company's lawyer what they could do to assure jurors of Roundup's safety.
"I wanted you to get up and drink it," the juror said.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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