In the first-ever lawsuit to go to trial alleging that Monsanto’s glyphosate products cause cancer, lawyers for the agrichemical giant asserted the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) thinks everything it studies causes cancer – a claim that a renowned medical oncologist and cancer expert called “idiotic.”
Monsanto lawyers made the claim during the trial of a lawsuit filed in 2016 by Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a retired groundskeeper who alleges that routine exposure to the glyphosate in Monsanto products caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The high-stakes lawsuit is the first of potentially hundreds or even thousands of such complaints to have its day in court.
Mr. Johnson alleges that he used Monsanto’s Ranger Pro and Roundup herbicides to control weeds in Benicia, California schoolyards. But because Monsanto withheld its knowledge of the risks posed by glyphosate, the active ingredient in both products, Mr. Johnson remained unaware that the chemicals could potentially harm him, his lawsuit alleges, according to Law 360.
Mr. Johnson’s experience with the Monsanto products included an equipment malfunction that left him soaked from head to toe in Ranger Pro, causing his skin to break out in blistering lesions, Law 360 reported, citing his lawsuit. Now, Mr. Johnson’s lawyers say their client is living “on borrowed time.”
The plaintiff’s lawsuit claims that Monsanto has known since the 1990s that a correlation existed between its glyphosate products and lymphoma but downplayed those risks, including failing to put any consumer warnings on its product labels.
According to Law 360, Monsanto’s defense team has repeatedly characterized the IARC as an outlier, pointing to ways in which its view of glyphosate differs from European and U.S. regulatory agencies.
The IARC is the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm and its findings are regarded as the gold standard in international cancer research. In 2015, IARC researchers classified the glyphosate in Monsanto’s herbicides as a “probable” carcinogen.
Monsanto lawyers claimed that of 1,000 substances IARC researchers analyzed, only one was found to be non-carcinogenic.
Alfred Neugut, an oncologist, cancer epidemiologist, and Columbia University professor, retorted by calling those allegations “idiotic,” Law 360 reported. Dr. Neugut explained that IARC researchers “only looked at potential carcinogens that humans are regularly exposed to and that have already been suspected to have some correlation to cancer,” Law 360 reported. He also said the IARC found that half of those substances were not carcinogenic based on the lack of definitive data.
When asked by Mr. Johnson’s attorney whether exposure to glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma to “a reasonable degree of scientific certainty,” Dr. Neugut replied that it does.