Monsanto Trial: Opening statements heard in case alleging Roundup weed killer caused Bay Area man's cancer

ByMelanie Woodrow KGO logo
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Trial underway for case alleging weed killer caused Bay Area man's cancer
Opening statements and witness testimony were heard today in the case alleging Roundup weed killer caused the local man's cancer.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A Sonoma County man is the first of thousands of plaintiffs to go before a jury in federal multi-district litigation against Bayer formerly known as Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killer.

Opening statements and witness testimony were heard today in the case alleging Roundup weed killer caused the local man's cancer.

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70-year-old Ed Hardeman of Sonoma County was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at 66 years old according to his attorney who argues he developed cancer as a result of spraying Roundup weed killer on his 56 acres of land.

Roundup contains glyphosate. At issue is whether glyphosate causes cancer.

"He's currently in remission and we hope it stays that way but there's just no way to know," said Hardeman's attorney Kathryn Forgie.

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The attorney for Bayer, formerly known as Monsanto, which manufactures Roundup, argues glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Bayer's attorney also argues Hardeman had risk factors that increased his chances of developing cancer including Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, his age, his weight and his body mass index.

"We don't believe that any of those are causative risk factors in other words they didn't contribute to or cause his Non- Hodgkin's Lymphoma," said Forgie.

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Hardeman's case is the first case in the glyphosate federal multi-district litigation to go to trial. More than a thousand cases are being brought, all by plaintiffs who allege exposure to Roundup weed killer caused them to develop Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

There are two phases to the trial. The first is addressing evidence related to causation. If the jury finds exposure to Roundup significantly contributed to Mr. Hardeman's cancer, the trial will go on to the second phase which will focus on Bayer's knowledge, conduct and damages if any.

In an emailed statement to ABC7 News, Bayer wrote:

"While we have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman, the extensive body of scientific research on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup is not responsible for his illness. Glyphosate-based herbicides have been used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to EPA, European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study - the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph - found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA's 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is 'not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,' its most favorable rating."

RELATED: San Francisco judge denies Monsanto's request for new trial in Roundup verdict

"As long as the company continues to deny that Roundup causes non Hodgkins Lymphoma then nothing can be done," said Forgie.

Last year, Vallejo resident Dewayne Lee Johnson won a 289 million dollar verdict against Monsanto. The judge later reduced the award to 78 million dollars. Monsanto is appealing the verdict.

The current jury trial underway in federal court is expected to last a month.