The health of Dewayne Johnson, who is suffering from a terminal cancer he attributes to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, was at the center of the debate on Monday during the trial that the American is pursuing with the multinational company in the United States.
“My life has completely changed” after the diagnosis in 2014, said Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, formerly very sporty, who testified Monday, with his voice with serious tone, in a court of San Francisco (west).
At 46 years old, this father of two boys suffers from a non-Hodgkidian lymphone, incurable, which he attributes to having vaporized, during his work, in 2012 and 2014 RoundUp and RangerPro, two herbicides marketed by agrochemical giant Monsanto.
This is the first time that Monsanto, which has just been bought for the German Bayer, finds itself on the dock for potentially carcinogenic effects of these products containing glyphosate, a controversial substance.
While Mr. Johnson “was doing everything in the house,” he can no longer help his wife, Araceli, he said, causing some smiles in the audience, talking about his children or the division of household chores.
Before the diagnosis, “we had no worries, no stress, life was beautiful,” testified shortly before his wife, now forced to work 14 hours a day and to have two jobs to “help with the bills Her husband is no longer able to work.
When she learned about the disease, her world “collapsed”. “I did not want to believe it,” she says at the bar, anxious smile and low voice.
Silence of defense
Today, “it’s very difficult, very stressful, it’s too (hard) to explain how I feel,” she adds, recounting her husband’s moments of distress, where enduring chemotherapy, he was crying secretly.
The hearing began with the testimony of Dr. Ope Ofodile, dermatologist, one of Johnson’s doctors in 2014 and 2015. She commented on photos of Mr. Johnson’s body lesions and his response to the first treatments.
Faced with emotionally charged testimonies, Monsanton’s lawyers have for the moment remained silent, refraining from asking questions.
Between 2012 and 2014, Mr. Johnson sprayed on school grounds in a small town in California, western United States, Roundup and RangerPro, a product similar to Roundup.
According to Mr. Johnson, it is their active ingredient, glyphosate, that caused his illness, and Monsanto knowingly concealed his dangerousness when he should have informed the public.
“Monsanto has known for 40 years that the core components of Roundup can cause tumors in laboratory animals,” said one of the complainant’s lawyers, Brent Wisner, on the first day of the trial on July 9.
The prosecution’s task is daunting because it’s about convincing jurors of the link between Monsanto’s glyphosate products and Dewayne Johnson’s cancer when it has not been scientifically proven despite long years of debate.
For its part, Monsanto has since the beginning of the trial to refute any link between glyphosate and cancer, scientific studies in support, which are challenged by detractors of glyphosate.
“The cancer of Mr. Johnson is a terrible disease and we must all have the greatest empathy for the test it goes through,” said one of the Monsanto group’s lawyers at the opening of the trial. George Lombardi.
Studies subject to caution?
“The scientific evidence shows that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer or cause cancer in Mr. Johnson,” he argued.
Johnson’s defense said he hoped “as much as possible” in damages from Monsanto, which is the subject of thousands of lawsuits in the United States.
Unlike the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California, where San Francisco is located, has put glyphosate on the list of carcinogens.
Glyphosate has also been listed as a “probable carcinogen” since 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO), but not by European agencies, EFSA (food safety) and Echa (chemicals).
Praised by farmers for its efficiency and low cost, it is particularly controversial in Europe and especially in France.
The Monsanto trial is expected to last at least until August.