Monsanto Roundup trial win overturned by Oregon court

By Carey Gillam

An Oregon appeals court on Wednesday overturned a trial victory by Monsanto owner Bayer AG in a decision that adds to an ongoing debate over the company’s efforts to create a nationwide legal and legislative shield from lawsuits alleging Roundup weed killer causes cancer.    

The court found that the trial judge in the case improperly barred key evidence about the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from being presented to the jury, which could have led the jury to find in favor of the plaintiff. And, notably, the court rejected arguments by the company that claims about the dangers of its products should be barred because those products carry the EPA’s stamp of approval.

Other courts have similarly rejected so-called “preemption” arguments by Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018. But after failing to get court backing, Bayer has been pushing state and federal lawmakers to give it and other pesticide makers the protection the courts have rejected. A proposed measure is being considered by lawmakers for inclusion in the US Farm Bill. Monsanto unsuccessfully argued to the appeals court that the case never should have even gone to a jury because the claims should have been preempted.

Bayer did not respond to a request for comment on the latest ruling.

Attorney Andrew Kirkendall, who represented the plaintiff in the case, said he welcomed the court’s decision and was eager to retry the case with the evidence about the EPA included.

The testimony that the trial judge refused to allow was to have come from Charles Benbrook, a former research professor who served at one time as executive director of the National Academy of Sciences board on agriculture. Benbrook has authored papers critical of the EPA’s handling of glyphosate herbicides, noting that the agency has given little weight to independent research regarding the actual products sold into the marketplace and used by millions of people around the world. Instead, the EPA has mostly relied on studies paid for by Monsanto and other companies selling glyphosate herbicides that found no cancer concerns.

“There is important new science to share with the jury that clarifies why and how Roundup can cause cancer,” Benbrook said this week after learning of the court ruling.