One man’s suffering exposed Monsanto’s secrets to the world

Photograph: Jeff Roberson/AP

Jurors in San Francisco came to the verdict one of the world’s largest seed and chemical companies, Monsanto, must pay $289m in damages to a man with terminal cancer which he claims was caused by exposure to its herbicides. Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old father, developed a severe and fatal form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma while working as a school groundskeeper where he sprayed large quantities of Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate herbicide brands.

This case is groundbreaking because it is not just about one man.

“Glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used around the globe (roughly 826 million kg a year) that residues are commonly found in food and water supplies, and in soil and air samples. US scientists have even recorded the weed killer residues in rainfall. Exposure is ubiquitous, virtually inescapable”.

This case is not the first of its kind and has now set a new precedent for future trials against Monsanto, “Roughly 4,000 plaintiffs have claims pending with the potential outcomes resulting in many more hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in damage awards. They all allege not only that their cancers were caused by exposure to Monsanto’s herbicides, but that Monsanto has long known about, and covered up, the dangers”.

The plaintiff’s attorney told the jury it was time for Monsanto to be held accountable. This trial, he said, was the company’s “day of reckoning”.

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