Last summer, Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, made history when he sued the agrochemical corporation, Monsanto, for causing his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and won. The jury ruled that Monsanto's weed killer, Roundup, had caused his terminal cancer.
But to avoid paying millions of dollars in damages, and to discourage more claimants, parent company Bayer is appealing the case. If Bayer accepts the Johnson verdict, it will have to deal with suits from more cancer patients – perhaps thousands – so it’s fighting hard against what would otherwise be just pennies to this billionaire agri-business.
And just as they have for mesothelioma, injury lawyers are now advertising their services for claims related to Roundup on television.
Roundup is the most widely-used herbicide in the world. Gardeners, landscapers, and farmers use it in both home and commercial settings. And according to Cary Giguere of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, it’s commonly used in Vermont on no-till, reduced tillage acreage plus on cover crops and corn plantings.
But in 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a warning that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is "probably carcinogenic" to humans. Some studies now link it to lymphoma, leukemia and other forms of cancer. Recent tests have found traces of it in breakfast cereals, including many family favorites, some nutrition bars and even orange juice. It’s also been linked to an alarming increase in the deaths of bees and monarch butterflies, possibly putting our whole food system at risk – which is pretty scary to contemplate!
I’m a lifelong organic gardener who decided long ago not to use toxic chemicals, and I’m especially spooked to think they may be lurking in the food on my grocer’s shelves. So if Mr. Johnson is willing to spend the last few months of his life continuing his legal battle with a mega corporation instead of at home with his wife and young children, I think we’ll all owe him a debt of gratitude - especially if it turns out that there was indeed a known risk and the company failed to warn the public.