A St. Louis jury on Wednesday heard opening statements in a new Roundup cancer trial that is the latest in a long line-up of coming courtroom battles over allegations that Monsanto’s popular weed killer causes cancer.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Gibbs Henderson told jurors that evidence in the case would persuade them that exposure to Roundup caused each of his three clients to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), while Monsanto lawyer Manuel Cachan said he would present evidence that would completely dispute any causal connection.
Henderson said in his opening statement that he expects Monsanto to rely heavily on assessments by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is “not likely” to be carcinogenic. But he said he and other lawyers representing the plaintiffs will show the jury a large body of scientific evidence showing the herbicide does cause cancer and that Monsanto engaged in tactics designed to hide that information from consumers.
Henderson said the plaintiffs’ side will prove Monsanto was negligent and acted in “reckless disregard” for the plaintiffs’ safety with respect to its Roundup products.
“We think the evidence is going to show that reckless disregard,” said Henderson. “This product, the evidence will show, was a blockbuster for… Monsanto, and that Monsanto took and went to great lengths to protect that product.”
In response, Monsanto’s lawyer challenged the veracity of Henderson’s presentation: “The evidence will show that you heard some truths, you heard some half-truths and you heard some untruths,” Cachan said of Henderson’s opening statement. “We’re going to show you that.”
Cachan opened his remarks to jurors by introducing them to Donna Farmer, who attended the first day of the trial. Farmer is a longtime Monsanto scientist who now works for Bayer AG, which acquired Monsanto in 2018.
“She has been working on glyphosate for 25 years. There are very few people alive on the planet earth who know more about the safety of glyphosate than Dr. Farmer,” Cachan said. “She’s going to be answering the questions you have about the safety of glyphosate.”
Farmer is so confident about the safety of glyphosate that she uses it personally and around her family members, including her grandchildren, Cachan said.
The trial is the latest, but not likely the last, in a series of trials held around the United States since the first was held in California in 2018. Plaintiffs lawyers won the first three while Monsanto’s lawyers won the most recent handful.
The trial is taking place in St. Louis County Circuit Court in Clayton, the seat of St. Louis County government. The three plaintiffs were chosen for the trial from the dozens of plaintiffs represented in a case titled Alesi v Monsanto.
The three plaintiffs are: Cheryl Davis, 70, who was diagnosed in 2004 and has suffered through two bouts with follicular lymphoma her doctors have told her is considered incurable.
Also part of the case is retired US Army veteran 65-year-old Marty Cox, who was diagnosed in 2019 with aggressive diffuse large B cell lymphoma and is now in remission. Cox used Roundup to control weeds around the yard of his Florida home.
Also represented in the trial is 75-year-old Gary Gentile who worked as a union electrician in New York before retiring in Florida and also used Roundup at his residences. Gentile was diagnosed with Stage 4 diffuse large B cell lymphoma in 2019.
“He was told that he had very little chance to live,” Henderson said of Gentile in his opening statement to jurors. “After aggressive chemotherapy and several hospitalizations, fortunately for Mr. Gentile, the cancer went into remission.”
All three were longtime users of Monsanto herbicides, such as Roundup, he said.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen with a positive association to NHL.
The case is being livestreamed by Courtroom View Network.