Earlier this month, a French court sided with a cereal farmer who claimed Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller made him sick and the product’s label inadequately warned him of its risks. The verdict was the latest legal blow to the chemical-making giant, and parent company Bayer AG, over the health risks of its herbicides.
The French case centered on Paul Francois, who blamed his memory loss and neurological problems on accidentally inhaling Lasso while working on his farm in 2004, as Reuters reported. The active ingredient in Lasso is alachlor — a different chemical than glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which two American juries have linked to cancer.
Alachlor, which was widely used on farms in the United States and other countries for decades, was rated a probable human carcinogen in 1986. Recent research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute exploring the effect of alachlor on farmers found a strong association between the chemical and laryngeal cancer, and lesser association with myeloid leukemia. French regulators banned Lasso in 2007 after the product was pulled from shelves in other European countries.
A French court still must decide whether Monsanto must compensate Francois for his illness. He is seeking about $1.1 million in damages.
In the United States, Monsanto faces hundreds of lawsuits alleging its flagship weedkiller causes cancer. Last month, a U.S. jury ordered Monsanto to pay $80 million to a 70-year-old farmer who claimed his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by spraying Roundup.
Glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Used commercially in the United States since 1974, glyphosate was classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 1985 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency on Cancer Research determined the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Last year, in the first trial over Roundup’s cancer risks, a San Francisco jury found that Roundup likely caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a former school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson. Jurors also decided Monsanto should have warned consumers of the potential dangers. The jury awarded Johnson $289 million, which the judge reduced to $78 million. Monsanto is appealing the verdict.