EPA Statement Regarding Safety of Glyphosate

Last week the EPA released its Glyphosate Proposed Interim Decision stating that it continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. Glyphosate, an herbicide, has been registered as a pesticide in the U.S. since coming to market in 1974 and has been reviewed and assessed several times since by the EPA including undergoing registration review every 15-years as is required of all registered pesticides. The EPA has consistently concluded that glyphosate is not cancer causing and that its use does not pose a risk to human health. This is in contrast to the 2015 IARC statement that glyphosate is a “probably” carcinogenic, a statement that resulted in an influx of lawsuits now totaling over 13,000 against Monsanto related to Roundup, its glyphosate-containing weed killer product. Monsanto is currently defending Roundup in the Pilliod trial in California.

The Alva and Alberta Pilliod Case

Pilliod is the third case to go to trial in which plaintiffs allege their use of Roundup resulted in their development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a married couple, allege that they both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from their long-term use of Roundup. In support of their claims the Pilliods called several expert witnesses who pointed to studies showing that glyphosate is DNA damaging,  IARC’s finding regarding glyphosate being a probable carcinogenic, and allegations that Mnosanto knowingly ignored glyphosate’s potential cancer links and produced bad science in support of its position that its products are safe. Last week Monsanto presented its defense but was not permitted to introduce the most recent EPA statement regarding the safety of glyphosate because plaintiffs had already finished presenting their case in chief at the time the statement was released.

As part of its defense, Monsanto called Dr. Celeste Bello, a hematologist and oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Bello was permitted to testify, her first time testifying as an expert witness, despite plaintiff’s efforts to prevent her testimony based on arguments that Dr. Bello spends most of her time treating patients and is not an expert on cancer causing chemicals. Dr. Bello reviewed Alberta Pilliod’s medical records and concluded that Roundup was not a significant contributing factor of her non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She also explained that there are only two known causes of the specific type of cancer Alberta Pilliod developed, HIV and a weakened immune system, and Alberta Pilliod had Hoshimoto’s disease, which indicates a weak immune system.

Similarly, Dr. Alexandra Levine, refuted claims that Alva Pilliod’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by Roundup pointing to his abnormal immune system and numerous prior instances of skin cancer, which Dr. Levine testified were major lymphoma risk factors.

Jurors also heard from Associate Professor of Industrial Hygiene and Safety, Robert Phelan, who testified that multiple studies over the last 9 years show that less than 1% of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is absorbed through the skin and that it is excreted rapidly form the bloodstream through urine. This testimony is in conflict to testimony offered by plaintiffs’ expert Willaim Sawyer who testified earlier in trial that the type of Roundup the Pilliods used contained polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA) a surfactant that makes glyphosate more toxic. Phelan refuted Sawyer’s opinions and  defended absorption studies performed by Monsanto.

After more than a month of trial, closing arguments are expected in the Pilliod case tomorrow. This will mark the third time a jury has considered whether Roundup caused a plaintiffs’ development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The Edwin Hardeman Case

Earlier this year, in the first federal bellwether case, a jury unanimously found Monsanto liable for failing to warn that its Roundup weed killer could cause cancer and awarded Edwin Hardeman $81 million dollars after he developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma following his use of Roundup for 25 years to kill weeds and poison oak on his 56-acre property.

The Dewayne Johnson Trial and Appeal 

Last year, in the seminal glyphosate case,  a state jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro weed killing products were the cause of plaintiff Dewayne Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and awarded Johnson, who mixed and sprayed Roundup as the groundskeeper for a school district in California, $289 million dollars, which was later reduced to $78 million. That verdict has since been appealed. Monsanto’s argument for appeal is based in part  on the timing of the IARC determination, which was reached after Johnson’s diagnosed. Monsanto also argued it is entitled to a new trial because the IARC report was admitted into evidence but some reports by the EPA that found glyphosate wasn’t carcinogenic were excluded as hearsay.

CMBG3 Law LLC has represented clients in products liability matters, especially with respect to allegedly toxic chemicals. We provide the most current legal advice to our clients by staying on top of developments in science, medicine, and regulations regarding a wide variety of substances and products used by consumers every day. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact John Gardella (617-279-8225) or Michaela Lancer (617-279-8216).