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Former Monsanto CEO takes the stand
Hugh Grant speaks of walking away with $75 million and being proud of his work over 37 years at the ag and seed giant
Former Monsanto chief Hugh Grant spent several hours on the witness stand on Tuesday – testifying for the first time in front of a jury at a Roundup trial – telling the court repeatedly that global regulators had found no evidence that the company’s herbicides cause cancer.
Under sharp questioning from the plaintiff’s attorney in the case, Grant answered questions about whether or not Monsanto had a duty to warn consumers of a cancer risk by saying there was no such established risk.
“The product had been examined and studied almost continuously for 40 years around the world and had never been deemed to be a carcinogen,” he said. “It’s a circumstance that never occurred. There was never, never a need to communicate such a hypothetical.”
During his 37 years at the company, Grant said: “The reality is that based on regulatory examination almost constantly during that entire period the product was never found to cause cancer.”
In multiple answers to a range of questions regarding the company’s messaging to consumers, Grant cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the authority for determining what information is displayed on product labels.
“The label isn’t designed by Monsanto,” he said.
Grant, 64, was called as a witness in the case of Allan Shelton, a 34-year-old man suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) who alleges his repeated use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides caused his disease.
Lawyers for Monsanto sought to block Grant from having to appear live at the trial, which is taking place in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City, Missouri. But the judge in the case and an appeals court denied the company’s request.
Multiple sources involved in the case said settlement talks over the weekend nearly netted a deal, but ultimately fell short and the trial resumed Tuesday.
In answering questions from Shelton attorney Roe Frazer on Tuesday, Grant said after liquidating all of his accumulated shares he left Monsanto with roughly $75 million.
Monsanto lawyers raised numerous objections to both the tone and content of Frazer’s questioning of Grant, successfully deflecting multiple lines of questioning.
In one exchange, Frazer asked Grant if he knew what “a consumer” was; to which Grant confirmed that, indeed, he did.
At one point during questioning about Monsanto’s stable of genetically engineered crops, Grants spoke almost wistfully about the company’s abandonment of a plan to introduce a “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered wheat that would not die if sprayed with glyphosate herbicides. Monsanto has introduced an array of such glyphosate-tolerant crops, including Roundup Ready soy and corn, cotton and canola.
But the company dropped plans for Roundup Ready wheat in May 2004 amid an uproar from global wheat buyers who threatened to stop buying wheat supplies from the United States if a genetically engineered wheat was introduced.
In Tuesday’s testimony Grant said it was unfortunate there was no Roundup Ready wheat today given the feared shortages due to the war in Ukraine.