Monsanto’s Secrets Exposed — Will Bayer AG Survive the Fallout?

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Story at-a-glance -

  • August 10, 2018, a jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, who claimed Monsanto’s Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and awarded Johnson $289 million in damages
  • According to the ruling, Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression” and was responsible for “negligent failure” by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of its product
  • Another Roundup-related trial is scheduled to begin in October, and there are an estimated 5,000 additional plaintiffs waiting in the wings for their day in court. All believe Roundup exposure caused their cancer
  • In the week following Johnson’s verdict, Bayer stock fell by 18 percent, evaporating about $14 billion of the company’s market value (a loss equivalent to 21 percent of Monsanto’s acquisition value)
  • Stock traders also cite lawsuits over dicamba-related crop damage as a driving factor for the stock plunge. Last year, over 3 million acres of U.S. farmland were destroyed by chemical burns from dicamba drift

By Dr. Mercola

Conspiracy is defined as "a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful." Discussing conspiracies is one of the fastest ways to be labeled a nut job, but the fact of the matter is that conspiracies do happen. Toxic industries have a long history of conspiring against the public good, and lately we've seen more and more proof of this reality in regard to toxic pesticides.

Of course, I'm talking about glyphosate, and Roundup in particular — Monsanto's flagship product. Over the years, Monsanto has been accused of — and in some cases found guilty of — lying about and/or covering up the harmful effects of Roundup. Now, the first of thousands of legal cases against Monsanto has resulted in victory, and the conspiracy to hide the truth is plain for all to see.

Jury Rules Monsanto Responsible for Man's Lethal Cancer

August 10, 2018, a jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson,1,2,3,4,5 who claimed Monsanto's Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to the ruling, Monsanto "acted with malice or oppression" and was responsible for "negligent failure" by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of its product.

Monsanto, which is now part of Bayer AG, has been ordered to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson. In the video below, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews lead trial counsel Brent Wisner about this groundbreaking case.

He provides a fairly comprehensive summary of the arguments brought forth during trial, and why Monsanto's rebuttal to the guilty verdict is wrong from start to finish. He also summarizes evidence revealing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working on Monsanto's behalf. As noted by Rolling Stone:6

"[Roundup] … is still on the market. That's because the EPA, as recently as November 2017, declared the chemical harmless to humans. At trial, Johnson's legal team was able to demonstrate, via internal emails, just how deeply Monsanto was involved in getting the EPA to reach that conclusion."

You can read more about this in my previous article, "Evidence EPA Colluded With Monsanto to Dismiss Cancer Concerns Grows Stronger." You can also review key documents from this case on the U.S. Right to Know website.7 A 2017 Spiegel article8 also delves into some of this damning evidence, which includes correspondence that clearly reveals Monsanto knew Roundup had safety problems, and in more ways than one:

"The Monsanto researchers also behaved irresponsibly when it comes to the question of Roundup's absorption into the body," Spiegel writes. "In their own animal experiments back in 2002, the company's experts discovered that 'between 5 and 10 percent' of the substance penetrated the skin of rats.

The rate was much higher than expected and the result had the potential to 'blow' the 'Roundup risk evaluations,' reads one email. As a consequence, the author of the email wrote: 'We decided thus to STOP the study.' Laboratory animals also absorbed more Roundup ingredients through the digestive tract than had been hoped for.

Above all, the Monsanto papers show that the experts were very aware of a fact that is often lost in the public debate: In addition to glyphosate, herbicides like Roundup contain other dangerous chemicals that are necessary to enable the active ingredient to penetrate hard plant walls, among other things. These ingredients are often more harmful than the active ingredient on its own."

Monsanto Faces Another 5,000 Roundup-Related Lawsuits

Another Roundup-related trial is scheduled to begin in October, and there are an estimated 5,000 additional plaintiffs waiting in the wings for their day in court.9 All believe Roundup exposure caused their cancer. That number is also likely to grow now that a precedence has been set. As reported by Carey Gillam in The Guardian:10

"Monsanto was undone by the words of its own scientists, the damning truth illuminated through the company's emails, internal strategy reports and other communications.

Testimony and evidence presented at trial showed that the warning signs seen in scientific research dated back to the early 1980s and have only increased over the decades. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe.

The company often pushed its version of science into the public realm through ghostwritten work that was designed to appear independent and thus more credible. Evidence11 was also presented to jurors showing how closely the company had worked with Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote the safety message and suppress evidence of harm."

How Monsanto Suppresses Science and Deceives the Public

Gillam, a veteran investigative journalist and author of "Whitewash — The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science," has also gone on record with Goodman talking about how Monsanto tried to discredit her for writing critical pieces about the company and its toxic products.12

She also discusses how "orchestrated fake news" stories have been used to further the corporate agenda and confuse people about the science, using front groups such as the Science Media Center and the American Council on Science and Health, both of which I've written about previously (see hyperlinks) and started calling out in 2013.

In a recent Twitter post,13 USRTK posted a copy of an email from Daniel Goldstein, senior science lead of medical sciences and outreach for Monsanto, dated February 26, 2015, in which he tells Monsanto's food safety scientific affairs lead, John Vicini, Ph.D.:

"While I would love to have more friends and more choices, we don't have a lot of supporters and can't afford to lose the few we have. I am well aware of the challenges with ACSH … so I can assure you I am not all starry-eyed about ACSH — they have PLENTY of warts, but: You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH."

Meanwhile, reporters and scientists who have dared to speak out against Roundup have been mercilessly attacked. Gillam tells Goodman:

"They have gone after people at The New York Times. They've gone after Pulitzer Prize winners. They've gone after journalists at magazines and newspapers around the world … and scientists," Gillam says.

"Really anyone who doesn't parrot the talking points, who tries to bring truth to light, who uncovers facts that are not beneficial to Monsanto, they're going to go after you.

Luckily, through Freedom of Information Act requests, state record requests, we have obtained documents from regulators, from state universities and of course these internal Monsanto documents that have come to light.

They really do show this ongoing — I call it decades of deception — very strategic efforts by Monsanto, others in the agrichemical industry, to own the science and to discredit anybody who tries to challenge them."

Monsanto Plans to Appeal

As you'd expect, Monsanto rejects the court's ruling and has announced it will file an appeal, but according to some legal experts, the company faces an uphill battle. As reported by Reuters:14

"Monsanto said … it planned to challenge the verdict on the grounds that the judge should have barred scientific evidence presented … as insufficient. 'Plaintiffs are putting forward junk science that is not based upon the 40 years of safe glyphosate use and studies,' Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president of global strategy, told Reuters …

Monsanto could have difficulty getting the verdict thrown out on those grounds, according to some legal experts who said the judge carefully considered whether to allow Johnson's scientific evidence under California law and reached a defensible conclusion that the jury should hear it.

'This is one of those difficult questions at the margins of science and the judge found the evidence simply wasn't inadmissible,' said Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida …

Monsanto said the plaintiff's experts should have been excluded because although they mainly cited respected, peer-reviewed studies, they inappropriately cherry-picked results and used unreliable methods to support the position that glyphosate causes cancer in humans.

But Alexandra Lahav, a law professor at the University of Connecticut, said it was common for experts to rely on the same studies and reach different conclusions to present to a jury during trial."

Partridge also accused Johnson's attorneys of attempting to "color science with very emotional arguments designed to inflame jurors."

According to Harvard Law School professor David Rosenberg, the argument that witness and lawyer remarks "inflamed and prejudiced the jury" is unlikely to get the company anywhere, seeing how "Such remarks are part of the game during trials." "I can't see a single reason why Monsanto would think an appeal would be helpful on those grounds," Rosenberg told Reuters.

Bayer Inherits Monsanto's Toxic Legacy

Less than three months following Bayer AG's $66 billion buyout of Monsanto, which took effect May 29, 2018,15,16 the company's difficulty ahead is becoming crystal clear. As of the first week of June, the Monsanto name no longer exists as a corporate entity,17 but that doesn't mean its products, or the public's hostility toward Monsanto, is going away.

Bayer inherits all of it, and may right about now suffer from a bit of buyer's remorse. In the week following Johnson's verdict, Bayer stock fell by 18 percent — in mere days evaporating about $14 billion of the company's market value; a loss equivalent to 21 percent of Monsanto's acquisition value.18 As reported by The Motley Fool:19

"The combination of the size of the verdict and the number of lawsuits filed suggests that the total amount necessary to settle all cases could stretch well into the billions of dollars.

The negative publicity associated with the award could also significantly reduce future Roundup sales and, perhaps, demand for Monsanto crop seeds specifically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate.

Bayer's Roundup ready seeds are among the most widely planted seeds by farmers in the United States, accounting for 70 percent of corn and 90 percent of soybean seeds planted in 2010.

Because investors hate uncertainty, the question marks associated with Bayer's future sales and potential damages due to lawsuits has shareholders hitting the exits."

In addition to Roundup toxicity being exposed, traders also cite mounting lawsuits over dicamba-related crop damage as a driving factor for the stock plunge.20 Last year, over 3 million acres of U.S. farmland were destroyed by chemical burns.

As feared by many critics, any crop that is not genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to dicamba is severely damaged by even small amounts of the herbicide — be it food crops, gardens or trees; even other GE crops resistant to herbicides other than dicamba will shrivel and die in its presence. Monsanto promised its XtendiMax with VaporGrip formula would be less volatile and prone to drift than older versions, but the real-life effects suggest otherwise.

Roundup Required to Bear Cancer Warning in California

Mere days after Johnson's verdict, Monsanto also lost its legal appeal to block California from requiring a cancer warning on Roundup under its chemical consumer-disclosure law, known as Proposition 65. As reported by Sustainable Pulse:21

"The chemical maker was seeking to force California to remove glyphosate, found in the company's Roundup products, from the Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.

This decision leaves in place lower court decisions upholding a provision of the voter-approved initiative that allows outside expert scientific findings to be considered when adding chemicals to the public list of carcinogens …

'Monsanto doesn't have the right to decide which scientific experts are permitted to inform the public about cancer-causing chemicals. By refusing to consider this case, the Supreme Court has allowed Proposition 65 to keep working the way voters intended when the initiative was passed in 1986,' said Avinash Kar, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council."

In this case, the outside expert finding Monsanto was trying to remove from consideration was that of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization and the "gold standard" in carcinogenicity research — which in 2015 declared glyphosate a "probable human carcinogen" based on the available evidence.22,23

This is another piece of good news, as this means California will be able to require Roundup and other glyphosate-containing products to bear a cancer warning label, and since companies rarely want to go through the extra work of making different product labels for different states, this means all Americans will finally be informed of the fact that Roundup is carcinogenic.

Several Countries Prepare to Ditch Roundup

Bayer is also facing the loss of far bigger markets than U.S. homeowners who might reconsider their use of Roundup.24 The federal court in Brazil recently ruled that all existing registrations of products containing glyphosate will be suspended (and no new glyphosate products will be allowed to be registered).

In Germany, the environment minister has called for the phase-out of glyphosate-based products, and Italy's deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, has also vowed to oppose further use of such products. French president Emmanuel Macron has also made a campaign pledge to ban glyphosate-based herbicides by 2021,25 and select British retailers have announced their intent to stop selling glyphosate-containing weed killers to the public.

Johnson's Court Victory Is a Win for All of Us

Getting back to where we started, Johnson's court victory is not just about justice for one man. This case has opened the eyes of the world to the devious tactics used by Monsanto to deceive us all. Glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup are the most heavily used agricultural chemicals of all time, with 1.8 million tons being applied to U.S. fields alone since 1974.

The popularity and widespread use of this herbicide was built on deceit, and there's really no telling how many people around the world have paid for those lies with their lives. In Argentina, there's a burgeoning epidemic of children being born with horrendous birth defects and malformations, and the suspected cause is their parent's exposure to Roundup and other glyphosate formulations.

Food testing reveals glyphosate residues in all foods sampled, and urine levels of glyphosate found in Californians rose 1,200 percent between 1993 and 2016. Glyphosate is also found in water supplies, soil, rain and air samples,26 and has been found to create antibiotic resistance in E.coli and Salmonella to boot.

There's virtually no escape from this chemical these days, and the list of adverse health effects of glyphosate just keeps getting longer, the more scientists look into it. Researchers have also concluded herbicide formulations such as Roundup are far more toxic than glyphosate in isolation — significantly altering the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes — thanks to synergistic effects.

Monsanto's name may have been retired, but its spirit lives on in Bayer AG. Now, at long last, its corporate secrets are out in the open for the world to see, in large part thanks to this court case. And, there are thousands more to be heard. With this victory, our politicians and regulatory agencies will have to face what they've allowed to occur and, hopefully, resolve to place human health before corporate profits as we move forward.