Monsanto have been found liable for the terminal cancer of a former groundskeeper exposed to glyphosate and other chemicals in their Roundup herbicidal product.
On Friday, a California jury hit Monsanto with $289 million in damages in a lawsuit brought by a patient suffering from terminal cancer, accepting the plaintiff's claims that his disease was caused by the company's popular herbicide, Roundup. The suit neatly sidestepped the complicated epidemiology of the active ingredient in the herbicide—glyphosate—and instead made the claim that the cancer was the result of glyphosate's interactions with other chemicals in Roundup—a claim for which there is even less evidence.
However the scientific evidence to support the above verdict seems questionable at best. The WHO has listed glyphosate as a "probable" carcinogen, but European regulators (who, as a rule, tend to be a lot stricter) consider it to not be carcinogenic.
The degree of exposure can be an issue with glyphosate. High levels of exposure in animal testing has hinted that the chemical could cause cancer, and some small epidemiological studies found a link between cancers and extensive exposure during agricultural work. That was enough for the World Health Organization to label the idea that glyphosate caused cancer as "probable."
But there have been questions raised about the significance of the animal studies even as the WHO report was being prepared. And a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies found no consistent association of glyphosate with cancer. European safety regulators have come to an opposite conclusion to that of the WHO, determining that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
The above article is very dismissive of the claims regarding glyphosate, but the popular press seem far more convinced, as did the jury in the described case. The problem is that the press is rarely if ever a reliable source for scientific stories, especially not ones that have an emotional component such as fear of cancer.
- Is glyphosate, on its own, a carcinogen?
- Is glyphosate, when combined with other chemicals in Roundup, a carcinogen?