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Judge cuts award to Roundup victim

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

judge cuts award to roundup victim

Story at-a-glance -

  • Bayer is facing roughly 13,400 pending lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging that Roundup herbicide caused their cancer
  • In the first three trials, four plaintiffs won billions in damages against Bayer, which inherited the legal battles after acquiring Monsanto in June 2018
  • Judges continue to slash the awarded damages, including in the case of Edwin Hardeman
  • Hardeman was awarded more than $80 million, including $75 million in punitive damages and $5.6 million in compensatory damages
  • U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that the $75 million in punitive damages awarded to Hardeman was “constitutionally impermissible” and slashed the amount to $20 million

Bayer is facing roughly 13,400 pending lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging that Roundup herbicide caused their cancer.1 In the first three trials, four plaintiffs won billions in damages against Bayer, which inherited the legal battles after acquiring Monsanto in June 2018. However, judges continue to slash the awarded damages, including in the case of Edwin Hardeman.

Hardeman used Roundup repeatedly to kill weeds on his 56-acre property and was later diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the first phase of the trial, the jury concluded that Roundup exposure was a substantial factor in causing Hardeman's Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In the second phase, the jury ruled that Bayer is liable for damages and did not warn consumers that the product carried a cancer risk.2,3 Hardeman was awarded more than $80 million, including $75 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in compensatory damages and $200,000 for medical expenses,4 but that's now been reduced.

Judge cuts damages to Roundup victim

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that the $75 million in punitive damages awarded to Hardeman was "constitutionally impermissible" and slashed the amount to $20 million. When the compensatory damages are factored in, Bayer owes Hardeman $25,267,634.10, down from the original $80 million.

That being said, Chhabria still chided Monsanto in the ruling, pointing out a "lack of concern about the risk that its product might be carcinogenic" and adding:5

"Despite years of colorable claims in the scientific community that Roundup causes NHL, Monsanto presented minimal evidence suggesting that it was interested in getting to the bottom of those claims …

While Monsanto repeatedly intones that it stands by the safety of its product, the evidence at trial painted the picture of a company focused on attacking or undermining the people who raised concerns, to the exclusion of being an objective arbiter of Roundup's safety.

For example, while the jury was shown emails of Monsanto employees crassly attempting to combat, undermine or explain away challenges to Roundup's safety, not once was it shown an email suggesting that Monsanto officials were actively committed to conducting an objective assessment of its product.

Moreover, because the jury was aware that Monsanto has repeatedly sold – and continues to sell — Roundup without any form of warning label, it was clear that Monsanto's 'conduct involved repeated actions,' rather than 'an isolated incident.'"

Other Roundup verdicts also reduced

In a statement about the judge's decision, one of the plaintiff's attorneys stated, "There is no valid basis for disturbing" the jury's punitive damages award, adding that the verdict was based on evidence, jury instructions and case law.

In the first Roundup trial, Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to the plaintiff, an award that was also later reduced to $78 million. In a similar trend, the third Monsanto Roundup case involved a married couple, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who both developed Non-Hodgkin lymphoma after regular use of Roundup.

The jury ordered Bayer to pay $2 billion in punitive and compensatory damages,6 but the company appealed, asking the judge to throw out the verdict because it wasn't supported by the evidence.7 While the verdict wasn't thrown out, the judge said the punitive damages, which make up the majority of the award, should be reduced.

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Bayer stock rallies thanks to judge

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, a purchase Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said would further their goal of creating a leading agriculture company.8 Experts have since called Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto "the worst deal ever,"9 as the company's value fell about 45% since the acquisition.10

At Bayer's annual general meeting in Bonn, Germany, 55.5% of shareholders even voted against ratifying the management's actions.11 However, upon news that a judge had cut Hardeman's punitive damages to $20 million — a nearly 70% reduction — Bayer's stock rose 3%.12

Bayer also announced that a newly established supervisory board committee has been put in place to address litigation and mediation activities, including settlement talks. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg was appointed as the mediator.13

Feinberg has been involved in dispute resolutions in a number of high-stakes cases, including for victims of 9-11 and the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Bayer said it will act in "good faith" and participate in the mediation, but it doesn't plan to negotiate until its appeals have run their course, a process that could take years.

"The Supervisory Board recognizes the negative effect the litigation uncertainty has had on the stock price and stakeholder perception, and is determined to help the company decisively but prudently advance the matter," Bayer stated.14

Meanwhile, on their website, Bayer is entrenched in damage control, stating, "We listened. We learned," and pledging to make commitments to transparency, sustainability and engagement.15

Yet, the company also plans to invest more than $5.6 billion in weed killer research and continues to claim that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is safe and "will continue to play an important role in agriculture and in Bayer's portfolio."16

Glyphosate use is on the rise

Glyphosate — identified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 201517 — is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in history. In 2016, Midwest farmers used an estimated 188.7 million pounds of glyphosate, a fortyfold increase from 1992, and the Midwest accounts for 65% of the total glyphosate usage in the U.S. Some states have seen an even greater increase.18

In Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa, glyphosate usage was about 80 times greater in 2016 than in 1992, and 15 times higher than in 2000. According to a 2018 glyphosate market report, the glyphosate market is also predicted to continue growing, potentially doubling by 2021, from the current $5 billion per year to as much as $10 billion.19

In addition to cancer concerns, a number of animal studies have linked glyphosate to liver damage, including one that dates back to 1979, which showed the chemical could disrupt mitochondria in rat livers.20 Researchers from the University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine21 also analyzed urine samples from 93 patients who had been diagnosed with nonalchoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Those with a more severe form of NAFLD called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, had significantly higher residues of glyphosate in their urine, an association that held true regardless of other factors in liver health, such as body mass index, diabetes status, age or race.22

EPA increased allowable glyphosate residues in food

In their latest review of glyphosate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft conclusion April 30, 2019, stating the chemical poses potential risks to mammals and birds that eat treated leaves, as well as risks to plants,23 but poses "no risks of concern" for people and "is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans."24

In their continued support of the industry, the EPA has increased the level of glyphosate residues allowed in food, even as health concerns mount. According to the Environmental Working Group:25

"Over the past 25 years, the EPA has increased the amount of glyphosate residue allowed on oats 300-fold. The first increase, to 20 ppm, was granted in response to a 1997 petition from Monsanto, when farmers around the world first began using glyphosate widely as a late-season drying agent. It was increased to the current 30 ppm level in 2008.

Since then, scientists have linked glyphosate to cancer, and researchers around the world have called for stricter limits on glyphosate exposures."

How much glyphosate is in your body?

If you're curious how much glyphosate is in your body, the Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.

Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure.

We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study. HRI is also in the process of doing hair testing for glyphosate, which is a better test for long-term exposure. If you want to avoid glyphosate in your food, choose organic or biodynamically grown foods, which are not genetically engineered or sprayed with glyphosate as a desiccant.

You can help to prompt change by reaching out to the companies that make your food. Let them know that you prefer foods without glyphosate residues — and are prepared to switch brands if necessary to find them. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:

Demeter USA Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands.

American Grassfed Association (AGA) The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100% forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms.

EatWild.com EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

The Cornucopia Institute The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

RealMilk.com If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund26 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.27 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.