Is Roundup a carcinogen? Has Monsanto deliberately hidden the dangerousness of its glyphosate weed killer? These are the questions that an American court will have to examine from Monday, seized by an individual with a terminal cancer.
If hundreds or even thousands of procedures are going on in the United States against the agrochemical giant, the complaint of Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old American who sprayed Roundup for more than two years, is the first in the world. product and its possible carcinogenic effects to lead to a trial.
The trial officially opened in mid-June with the appointment of a judge but the substantive debates are scheduled to begin only Monday, after a series of technical hearings. It is scheduled to last at least three weeks in San Francisco.
Sold over 40 years ago, Roundup, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, contains glyphosate, a highly controversial substance that is the subject of conflicting scientific studies on its carcinogenic nature.
Monsanto, which faces millions of dollars in damages alone, has always firmly denied any connection between cancer and glyphosate.
Dewayne Johnson “fights for life” after being diagnosed with incurable non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years ago, says David Dickens, of Miller’s law firm, specializing in the defense of private individuals victims of defective products.
“It’s not the fault of luck”, it’s not due to a “genetic” problem, “it’s because of its continuous exposure to Roundup and Ranger Pro” (Monsanto’s similar product) , which he sprayed between 2012 and 2014 on school grounds in the city of Benicia, California, says Dickens.
“And that could have been avoided,” asserts the lawyer, accusing Monsanto, who has just been bought by the German Bayer , to knowingly hide from the public the dangerousness of its products.
Mr. Johnson’s lawyers have not yet set the amounts they intend to claim, but mention a “multi-million dollar judgment”.
But the game will not be easy for Dewayne Johnson, whose lawyers will have to prove a link between his illness, which causes him many skin lesions on the body, and the spread of glyphosate.
The question is “Has Johnson’s exposure to glyphosate caused his cancer? (…) It did not cause her cancer, “says Sandra Edwards of Farrella Law Firm, Braun and Martel, one of Monsanto’s lawyers.
During this trial, “you’ll see a lot of data and science,” she notes, pointing out that there have been “studies that have followed for years and years from the people who have used these products,” without concluding that they caused cancer.
“Legally, it’s extremely difficult to make a company responsible for specific cases of cancer or other pesticide-related diseases,” says Linda Wells of the pesticide NGO “Pesticide Action Network North America.”
But “if Mr. Johnson wins this case, it will be a huge blow to the entire pesticide industry,” says Wells.
The record is all the more complex as there are many contradictory studies and decisions on glyphosate.
Unlike the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California has put glyphosate on the list of carcinogens. And in that State, any manufacturer who is aware of the carcinogenicity of a certain or suspected carcinogen must obligatorily include it on the packaging.
Glyphosate has also been classified as a “probable carcinogen” since 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a body of the WHO, unlike European agencies, Efsa (food safety) and Echa (chemicals).
Glyphosate is particularly controversial in Europe. Following the decision of the European Union in November to renew the license for the herbicide for five years, the French government has committed to stop using this substance for the main uses within three years.