While Monsanto and Bayer cross the T’s and dot the I’s on a merger that could result in the newly-formed company owning over a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market, the real drama is unfolding now in the courtroom.
Over 2,400 of these lawsuits have been filed against the Monsanto Company by cancer victims in courts across the country, and the harrowing stories of how many of these gardeners, landscapers, farmers and other everyday people contracted the disease are just now coming to light.
While synthetic pesticides like Monsanto’s Roundup are still considered to be “conventional” by the standards of the mainstream, few people realize that synthetic farming chemicals are responsible for over 200,000 farm worker deaths each year.
And now, one brave California farmer is coming forward with his own heartbreaking story over exposure to toxic chemicals — one that has resulted in a grim prognosis by doctors that he has just six months left to live.
Dying California Farmer Finally Gets His Day in Court
According to attorney Timothy Litzenburg of the Miller Law Firm in Virginia, his client Lee Johnson, a 46-year-old resident of Vallejo, California, has just six months to live after he was exposed to Monsanto’s controversial Roundup weedkiller.
He contracted the disease even after following the product’s directions to a tee, his lawyer said.
“He read the label on the container,” attorney Timothy Litzenburg said according to this article from Civil Eats, “and he followed all the safety instructions, which were written by Monsanto.”
Two years after using it as directed, Johnson developed a severe skin rash in 2014, the article notes, just two years after he began spraying the best-selling product as a groundskeeper.
Eventually, it morphed into an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. If Johnson is unable to overcome the disease as doctors believe, he will leave behind a wife and two children.
Johnson’s case is the first of many that will be given a jury trial, and needless to say, the world will be watching.
As the clock begins to run out on his life (at least according to what his doctors say), Johnson will finally get the chance to testify against the company that he believes is responsible.
Cancer Lawsuits Could Dramatically Slash Monsanto’s Bottom Line
While Monsanto insists that its products including Roundup are safe due to government safety body approvals, many others disagree, noting that much of the research is approved by the industry itself.
In spring 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is a “probable human carcinogen,” which has set off a seemingly never-ending chain of legal challenges that are now chipping away at a foundation the company ironically built partly on the strength of suing farmers for patent infringement. According to the Civil Eats article, Monsanto could lose what amounts to its entire yearly revenue for glyphosate if it ends up paying out the billions in monetary settlements that may result from these trials.
Johnson’s story is not unlike that of Terri McCall and her husband Jack, an avocado farmer who passed away from a massive stroke after taking chemotherapy for a lump believed to be caused by exposure to glyphosate.
“I think that he died because of exposure to glyphosate and if he hadn’t used it for 35 years he’d still be alive,” she said on an episode of the mainstream TV show The Doctors.
The cases of McCall and Johnson are just two of over 2,000, but they represent the human side of an issue that has become far too normalized over the past few decades.
Whether or not Monsanto will shoulder at least some of the responsibility for causing their deaths remains to be seen, but at the very least it’s sure to make a lot of people think twice before ever picking up another bottle of Roundup again.