A California state court jury handed down a $289-million verdict against Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agribusiness titan. The massive jury award to plaintiff Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, came after Johnson and his attorneys argued successfully that his repeated on-the-job use of Monsanto pesticides caused him to develop a terminal case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer. But over 800 scientific studies and reviews—and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world—support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer,” said Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge in a statement issued after last week’s ruling that also expressed sympathy for Johnson.
The mountains of studies Partridge cites place the scientific consensus about the lack of a link between glyphosate and cancer on par with the vast evidence demonstrating the safety of water.
Johnson’s cancer is a tragedy, but it’s not Monsanto’s fault. It’s a tragedy for which Monsanto should not, must not be held responsible because the scientific consensus around glyphosate points overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. That makes it much more likely that this month’s ruling against Monsanto is itself a tragedy —perhaps the first in a long line of others to come—and one that a California appeals court should reverse.
It will also impact the cost of food as insects infect the global food crop.