Global agrochemicals giant Monsanto has faced a double hit, ordered to make another massive cancer compensation payout and accused of compiling a potentially illegal dossier on its opponents.
On 13 May 2019, a jury in California awarded more than $2bn (£1.5bn) to a couple who said the best-selling weedkiller Roundup was responsible for their cancer. It is the third time that the German pharmaceutical group Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, has been ordered to pay damages over the glyphosate-based herbicide.
The jury ruled the company had acted negligently, failing to warn of the risks associated with the product. Bayer denied the allegations and says it will appeal. It insists that Roundup is safe to use.
The jury in Oakland, California, said Bayer was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after they used the product for years to landscape their home and other properties. “The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” said their counsel, Brent Wisner.
The jury awarded each of them $1bn in punitive damages as well as a total of $55m in compensatory damages. Bayer now faces more than 13,400 US lawsuits over Roundup’s alleged cancer risk.
The court award came after the French newspaper Le Monde revealed on 9 May 2019 that government officials in the country are investigating a potentially illegal file compiled by Monsanto on critics of its chemicals and genetically modified crops.
The document was prepared for the company by PR agency Fleishman Hillard, which in 2018 also “helped Monsanto Company (now part of Bayer) develop their 2017 Sustainability Report: Growing Better Together.”
The PR company’s website recommends firms ‘get smart’ on reporting, with new approaches “ushering in an era of hybrid reporting that’s tailored to the particular needs of companies and their stakeholders. ”
Bayer says it has now dropped the global public relations firm.