Monsanto is having a rough week.
First, on Friday, a California jury ordered the chemical behemoth to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who got terminal cancer after using Roundup, determining that the active ingredient in the popular weed killer, glyphosate, contributed to the plaintiff's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The functional medicine community and environmentalists everywhere exalted the news as validation of what many have known or suspected about the nature of glyphosate for years.
Then, days later on Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released test results showing that glyphosate is present in 43 out of 45 cereals tested by an independent laboratory, including Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Quaker Oats, and a host of other brands with both organic and conventional ingredients.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer that is the most widely used pesticide in the United States. Its status as a carcinogen is disputed. The World Health Organization concluded in 2015 that it was "probably carcinogenic to humans." Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in 2017 that glyphosate was not likely carcinogenic to humans.
The debate rages on in court with a so-called "battle of the experts." Monsanto, which claims that more than 800 studies prove glyphosate is safe, finds an expert witness (scientist) to give testimony about how safe the chemical is for humans. Meanwhile, plaintiffs' attorneys bring their own expert witness who provides testimony about the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate.
This is what makes the jury verdict in California so eye-popping. Not only did they find that there was a link between glyphosate and the plaintiff's cancer, but they determined that Monsanto covered up, or at least failed to disclose, the harmful risks of working with Roundup.
Thus, the plaintiff was awarded $39 million in past and future damages. But more significant for Monsanto and lawyers following this case closely, the jury awarded $250 million in punitive damages as well. While Monsanto will appeal the verdict, it is a huge precedent for the more than 5,000 active lawsuits against Monsanto with similar plaintiffs and similar claims about the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate. Attorneys for plaintiffs in those 5,000 cases will surely try to replicate the result of the California case, using it as a guide in their own proceedings.
On the news of the California verdict, the stock price for Bayer AG (which owns Monsanto) fell 11% ($11 Billion in market value) on Monday following the Friday verdict.
So the news Wednesday that traces of the weed killer found in 43 of 45 cereal brands tested is given an added significance for those who were unaware of the glyphosate debate before Friday's bombshell jury verdict. At the time of this writing, the stock price following Wednesday's news fell another 9% with the five-day performance at -20.47%.
We will be following the news of the California appeal and the other similar cases as they develop.