Fresh off successfully defending itself for the ninth consecutive time at trial against allegations that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, Monsanto attorneys are back in court once again combatting Roundup personal injury and negligence claims, this time with plaintiff attorneys accusing a decades-long Monsanto employee who acted as an expert witness of being a mouthpiece for the company, the St. Louis Record reported. 

Attorneys for plaintiff John Durnell will try to reverse Monsanto’s recent run of trial victories, which came after the first three Roundup trials handed four plaintiffs multi-million-dollar damage awards in 2018 and 2019. 

Like tens of thousands of similar claims, Durnell’s lawsuit against Monsanto claims that the company’s Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and accuses a 32-year employee of Monsanto, Donna Farmer, a Senior Science Fellow at Monsanto-owned Bayer Crop Science, as presenting biased evidence to “explain away the company’s negligence.”

At trial, which began at the end of September in St. Louis, home to Monsanto headquarters, Durnell’s attorney told Farmer, “You cannot say that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer [with 100% certainty] because you haven’t done the studies,” to which Farmer responded, “Yes,” and added that long-term studies had not been done that could prove that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer. 

Farmer, however, defended the use of Roundup, stating that the EPA had found the product to be safe for use when applied according to the instructions and that the Monsanto Corporation had complied fully with all regulations.

According to the lawsuit, Durnell began using Roundup in 1997 to kill weeds. He was diagnosed with NHL after experiencing pain in his groin, which also had a knot in it. Currently in remission, Durnell underwent several rounds of chemotherapy treatments. 

Durnell is seeking monetary and punitive damages for medical treatments, pain and suffering including future regular doctor visits and the ongoing anxiety the disease may reoccur. 

Durnell’s attorneys stand by the March 2015 finding of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer that classified glyphosate, Roundup’s active compound, as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” a finding that was conducted by 17 researchers who reviewed over 1,000 studies. 

As in past Roundup trials, a central point of contention between rival attorneys is a finding in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup, is a “probable” carcinogen. Plaintiff's attorneys stand by the finding. They said it was conducted by 17 scientists who considered 1,000 studies in determining that glyphosate causes cancer.

Durnell’s attorney exhibited numerous documents to make the point that evidence shows glyphosate causes cancer. One document read, “You do not need statistical significance to have an increased (cancer) risk … Recent meta-analysis shows an increased NHL risk between 27 to 50%. This is very compelling evidence.”

Monsanto first introduced Roundup to the market in 1974. The use of Roundup grew exponentially from 1.4 million pounds annually to 40 million pounds by 1995, with the majority of application by farmers. During that time, the number of NHL cases also rose, documents at trial showed. 

Durnell’s attorney accused Farmer, who has made numerous television interview appearances defending Roundup, of employing an interview technique called “blocking and bridging,” which made Roundup’s safety seem more believable to the public.

In addition to glyphosate, Durnell’s attorney listed other potentially carcinogenic ingredients in Roundup, including surfactants, formalin, arsenic and formaldehyde.

Farmer defended these additives, saying they were found naturally in soil and water and used in Roundup in trace amounts. 

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