JEFFERSON CITY – Three trials in California against Bayer have sided with plaintiffs involving allegations that the glyphosate in the herbicide Roundup causes cancer, despite regulatory agencies concluding that glyphosate is not harmful to humans.
Richard AuBuchon, executive director of Missouri Justice Reform Coalition and also an attorney based in Jefferson City, says science presented during trials can sometimes be difficult for a jury.
"I am unable to speak to the facts of these (California) cases because I was not involved in the litigation. Every trial is a game of what evidence is admitted and how it is presented," AuBuchon said. "Focusing on the science can be difficult for a jury when presented with all the other items of fact during a trial."
AuBuchon said he hoped the state's adoption of the more strict evidence standard "Daubert" - which is used to assess whether an expert witness's scientific testimony is based on scientifically valid reasoning - will lead to sound decisions by jurors based on science over opinion when a trial gets underway in St. Louis County in January.
"The government (regulatory) agencies focused on the science, period," AuBuchon said. "When the agencies reviewed these chemicals there was no story to tell or evidence to argue about how it was presented. It was all about the science and studies have shown repeatedly these herbicides are safe when used as directed for their intended purpose. With the passage of a higher proof of evidence for expert testimony in Missouri, it is my hope that cases like this will yield greater inspection into the true science presented instead of just an opinion based on theory."
Numerous regulatory agencies have looked at glyphosate and have found the chemical is not cancerous. The Environmental Protection Agency also concluded in May if consumers used glyphosate according to the directions on the label, there is "no risk."
However, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer came up with the conclusion that glyphosate is "probably" carcinogenic to human beings.
There are now 18,400 suits that claim that Roundup caused cancer.
St. Louis-based Monsanto was bought by Bayer AG last year. Monsanto developed Roundup and has been accused on many fronts of covering up the health risks associated with the product's use. In August of last year, a California jury awarded plaintiff Dewayne Johnson $289 million over his allegations that his use of Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but the award was later reduced to $78 million.
In federal court in San Francisco in March, a jury ruled awarded the plaintiff $80 million. The judge later reduced the award to $25 million. Another California jury found in May that Bayer should pay $2 billion to a couple who blamed their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on Roundup use. That award also was reduced, to $86.7 million in July.
Another case involving Bayer and Roundup is scheduled to be heard St. Louis. The trial was originally scheduled to begin Aug. 19, but has since been pushed back to January.