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Monsanto on trial again - Missouri Roundup case begins
Will he or won't he? Former Chairman Hugh Grant could be on the stand next week
Nearly four years after the first-ever trial over allegations that exposure to Roundup herbicide causes cancer, a new trial was underway on Tuesday, pitting a 34-year-old man suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) against Monsanto owner Bayer AG.
Allan Shelton, a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Mo., was diagnosed with NHL in May 2016, a little more than a year after international cancer scientists affiliated with the World Health Organization classified the active ingredient in Roundup, a chemical called glyphosate, as a probable human carcinogen.
Shelton’s lawsuit against Monsanto mirrors tens of thousands of other U.S. lawsuits filed since the 2015 classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). His lawyers allege Monsanto knew of scientific research showing its product could cause cancer, but failed to warn consumers, instead working to suppress and manipulate information about Roundup dangers.
Monsanto knew there would be a “day of reckoning,” but was undeterred, Shelton lawyer Roe Frazer told the jury in opening statements. “Their sole motive was money, and lots of it.”
Shelton, a slender African-American man, watched as Frazer told jurors that Shelton began spraying Roundup at the age of 10 and sprayed regularly at home and at work throughout his youth. Since being diagnosed with NHL, Shelton has required hundreds of medical treatments and has been hospitalized multiple times, as recently as last week. He is so ill that he requires the regular care of his parents, Frazer said.
Frazer told jurors they will learn about a host of scientific evidence tying Monsanto’s herbicide products to cancer and, Monsanto’s efforts to promote and encourage widespread use of glyphosate while ignoring the risks to its customers.
“The proof is going to show that glyphosate is everywhere,” Frazer told the jury. “It’s not just on the plants you’re spraying. It ends up on your skin if you’re spraying it. If it is a windy day it may end up in your lungs. It ends up in the food supply of the United States. It ends up in soil. It ends up in places that nobody wants it to end up in. It should not be in Honey Nut Cheerios. All this was foreseeable to Monsanto when they made this product.”
Prior to opening statements, before the jury was brought into the courtroom, a Monsanto lawyer asked the judge to bar Shelton’s attorneys from talking to jurors about genetically engineered crops that are designed to tolerate being sprayed with glyphosate, and farming practices that result in glyphosate residues in food. GMOs are a “trigger issue,” according to the defense lawyer, and the topic could be “incredibly prejudicial” because it implies jurors and their families may be harmed by Monsanto through the food they consume.
Next week jurors will hear live testimony from former Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant and former Monsanto President Brett Begemann, Frazer promised jurors.
You can read the rest of the story (and other environmental articles) at my new collaborative journalism project- The New Lede.