We have a cheer for the San Francisco jurors who on Friday awarded a groundskeeper $289 million in damages in a case against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. The groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, is suffering from terminal cancer.

“This ruling has not only elevated public awareness of the significant dangers in using hazardous synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, it has revealed the extent pesticide-makers like Monsanto go through to obfuscate these dangers and mislead the public,” ” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director for Beyond Pesticides. “One takeaway toxic industries should learn from this trial: When you use the tobacco industry playbook, be prepared to incur tobacco industry consequences. We encourage individuals wishing to avoid glyphosate and other toxic pesticides to support organic production by managing their lawns and yards without toxic pesticides and purchasing organic foods whenever possible.” 

Until about nine years ago, most health studies focused on the safety of Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup, according to an article in Scientific American. But in more recent studies, scientists have found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.
One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding researchers from France’s University of Caen called “astonishing.”

“We applaud and thank Mr. Johnson, and his family and attorneys, for persevering in this litigation, which sets a critically important standard for protecting people’s right not be poisoned by pesticides in the marketplace,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “While we know that the jury verdict cannot restore Mr. Johnson’s health, we believe that the verdict is a clarion call to manufacturers that ignore the devastating impact that their products can have on unsuspecting workers, consumers and families. We look forward to the day in the not-to-distant future when we recognize as a society that products like Roundup are not necessary, and effective and affordable land and building management can be achieved without toxic chemicals.”

To learn about making the switch to organic lawn care, read our Action Line article here. 

(UPDATE: In June 2020, Bayer, which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in 2018, paid $10 billion in cancer claims to settle lawsuits. The settlement, which covers about 95,000 cases, sets aside $1.25 billion to establish an independent expert panel to resolve whether glyphosate causes cancer and if so, what dosage and exposure level is dangerous. The settlement came after losses in previous court cases, including a case in San Francisco in which a jury awarded $289 million in damages to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson who is suffering from terminal cancer. In March 2019, Sonoma County landowner Edwin Hardeman, who is one of 11,200 product users who have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, was awarded $80.3 million after alleging that the herbicide caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and that the company buried evidence rather than warning consumers of the plausible health impacts.)