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Roundup Trials Begin in Missouri: A Look at the Opening Arguments of Monsanto's Latest Legal Battle

Josef Rappaport, DPT, Physical Therapist
April 30, 2023

Monsanto, an agrochemical giant, has found itself the target of yet another personal injury lawsuit across the nation, this one filed by Sharlean Gordon who claims they used Roundup as a means of controlling her lymphoma blood cancer. A trial began Wednesday in St Louis County at 21st Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri via Courtroom View Network.

Monsanto's headquarters is in St. Louis and past Roundup trial results there have varied by city or county court. A decision last summer in St Louis County went in Monsanto's favor while in another case from City St Louis they reached a settlement after three days of testimony by plaintiff.

At the opening remarks for Gordon's case before Judge Williams in Denver, Aimee Wagstaff of Andrus Wagstaff PC in Denver spoke of its significance and accused Monsanto of knowing about its dangers but failing to warn customers properly about using Roundup.

"This case is straightforward," Wagstaff stated, "and boils down to choice: Ms. Gordon exposed herself to risk; Monsanto should have warned about that risk before she exposed herself, or else take responsibility - given Monsanto knew of its presence."

Gordon used three versions of Roundup over 25 years, including a concentrate that required mixing before spreading its chemicals throughout her yard. When she noticed a lump in her groin, doctors diagnosed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), an extremely rare blood cancer accounting for less than 4% of cancer diagnoses or occurring only 20 out of 100,000 individuals.

"Gordon was an avid gardener," Wagstaff remarked. "She read and followed all instructions listed on the Roundup label."

Plaintiff expert witnesses will include researchers Beate Ritz and Dennis Weisenburger, medical doctors, as well as William Jameson from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which declared glyphosate -- one of Roundup's ingredients -- an "probable carcinogen" back in 2015.

Defense attorneys during previous Roundup trials have frequently pointed to IARC findings as grounds for challenge, characterizing it as an overstated estimation of cancer causation that included factors like breathing barbecue smoke, eating red meat and working late hours on jobs.

"Glyphosate is the active ingredient used to kill weed," Wagstaff stated in her introduction, and added, "a surfactant binds the herbicide directly onto its target plant, spreading its effects across it." Additionally, Roundup can penetrate human skin and enter their bloodstream as an endpoint solution.

Wagstaff claimed Monsanto employed only one epidemiologist (scientist) to study the impacts of its chemical, with no long-term animal or rodent studies conducted by them. She indicated evidence in this case would focus on three categories - animal studies, cell studies and epidemiological evidence.

Wagstaff advised looking at all three approaches for signs of cancer: too many signal signs exist today.

Wagstaff accused Monsanto officials of prioritizing customer safety over economic implications if it came out that its product caused cancer in customers.

Wagstaff explained, "They feared what had been kept confidential would become public knowledge".

Wagstaff displayed a 2009 document by Donna Farmer, Lead Toxicologist in Product Safety from Monsanto from 1991 until today, who stated in it that Monsanto could not assert that Roundup did not cause cancer as no studies proving otherwise had yet been completed.

"Monsanto (and its affiliates) haven't conducted sufficient studies," Wag staff stated, noting they have ignored scientific information as being at issue. This "is exactly why Monsanto needs to face up to their responsibility as soon as possible.

Trial proceedings for Roundup are expected to last several weeks and will be closely observed by many. As one of the world's largest agrochemical corporations, Monsanto's legal battles often serve as an emblematic illustration of larger debates surrounding corporate responsibility and agricultural safety - with high stakes on both sides: Monsanto itself as well as those who claim Roundup caused their cancer and believe Roundup should bear responsibility.

No matter the outcome of this trial, Roundup and Glyphosate remain hotly debated topics both within the courts and public discourse. As with any complex issue, multiple perspectives exist, making definitive answers hard to come by; nevertheless, trials provide an invaluable platform for participants involved to present evidence and make arguments while helping the public better comprehend these complex matters at stake.

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If you or a loved one were harmed by using Roundup Weedkiller you could be entitled to compensation.


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