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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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.