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article imageBayer shares tumble on Monsanto's Roundup cancer verdict

By Karen Graham     Aug 13, 2018 in Health
Bayer shares plunged as much as 14 percent on Monday, losing about $14 billion in value after newly acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to a man who said ingredients used in the weedkiller had caused his cancer.
German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer acquired Monsanto in June for $63 billion, even though it was well known that Monsanto had been under fire over glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto's weedkiller Roundup.
On Friday, a California jury awarded Dewayne Johnson, a California school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, $289 million in damages after finding that Monsanto had acted with "malice" and that its weed killers contributed "substantially" to Mr. Johnson's terminal illness, according to the Financial Times.
Johnson filed the lawsuit in 2016 and it was fast-tracked through the judicial system due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that he alleged was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, the professional version of Roundup, while working at a school in Benicia, California.
A California jury on Friday ordered Monsanto to pay nearly $290 million in compensation to groundske...
A California jury on Friday ordered Monsanto to pay nearly $290 million in compensation to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson who was diagnosed with cancer after he repeatedly used Monsanto's weed killer, Roundup
Now, despite Monsanto and Bayer's defense of glyphosate as being safe as long as it is used responsibly, Monsanto is facing close to 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States.
A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC on Saturday that the two companies operated independently. In a statement, the company said: "Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label."
The debate over glyphosate
The herbicide glyphosate has been in use since the 1970s when Monsanto first introduced it as Roundup. Since that time it has become the most widely used herbicide in the world. Not only is the chemical sprayed on food crops but it is also widely used outside the agricultural sector.
The popular herbicide  Roundup contains glyphosate.
The popular herbicide, Roundup contains glyphosate.
Besides making DDT, Monsanto was also one of the companies that produced a defoliant dubbed "Agent Orange," widely used during the Vietnam war between 1962 and 1971. The United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 U.S. gallons of various chemicals – the "rainbow herbicides" and defoliants — in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia as part of the aerial defoliation program known as Operation Ranch Hand.
By 1971, 12 percent of the total area of South Vietnam had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals, at an average concentration of 13 times the recommended U.S. Department of Agriculture application rate for domestic use. Some of the chemicals used in the so-called "defoliation" of jungle areas contained dioxin and other deadly products. What the American public did not know was that local people's farmlands were being destroyed, while thousands of people, including U.S. military personnel were being made sick.
U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam
U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam
R.W. Trewyn, Ph.D.
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma has been linked to the use of herbicides for many years, despite the fact they are still being used globally. Then it was discovered there may be a link between honeybee declines around the world, due to glyphosate use on agricultural fields.
But perhaps the fact that weeds have actually built up a resistance to the herbicide has been one of the biggest problems, other than making people deathly ill, to come up over the past few years. Weeds growing resistance to Roundup required farmers, agricultural workers, turf managers, landscapers and migrant field workers to spray more and more heavily, thus increasing their exposure over time.
Aftermath of the lawsuit
Mr. Johnson's lawsuit built on 2015 findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the UN World Health Organization, which classified Roundup's main ingredient glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, causing the state of California to follow suit.
Herbicide resistance in weeds is a worsening threat. Map shows number of cases of herbicide-resistan...
Herbicide resistance in weeds is a worsening threat. Map shows number of cases of herbicide-resistant weeds by country.
Blue River Technology
Since that time, the European Union has banned, then reversed its decision on the safety of glyphosate, as has the U.S. and a number of other countries globally. But glyphosate is still under close examination and in many cases, is banned for use on certain crops.
"We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family," Monsanto said in a statement but promised to continue to vigorously defend this product. "The jury got it wrong," Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge told reporters.
But Johnson's attorney Brent Wisner said the verdict "shows the evidence is overwhelming" that the product poses danger. "When you are right, it is really easy to win," he said.
More about Bayer, Monsanto, Roundup, Carcinogen, Lawsuits
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