A third lawsuit related to claims that Monsanto’s Roundup causes cancer has revealed new details about the cozy relationship between the biotech giant and U.S. regulators. On Monday, Monsanto Co. corporate spokesman William Reeves admitted the corporation has regularly communicated with U.S. regulatory agencies regarding reviews of the controversial Roundup herbicide. Reeves denied that Monsanto had given the agencies orders to follow. Reeves’ testimony came about during the latest lawsuit against biotech giant Monsanto, as Alva and Alberta Pilliod fight to prove that Roundup caused their cancer.
The Pilliods are both living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after spraying the herbicide Roundup on their properties for nearly 30 years. The septuagenarian couple were diagnosed with the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, in 2011 and 2015. Now the couple is seeking damages related to their use of Roundup after recent studies have linked the world’s most popular herbicide to cancer.
Courthouse News reported on the latest developments in the case:
“Attorney Brent Wisner, representing plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod, played video testimony of Monsanto corporate spokesman William Reeves in court Monday, in which he acknowledged Monsanto executives had exchanged text messages with regulators who sat on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committee that found glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is not carcinogenic for humans.The Pilliods’ legal team hopes these email and text exchanges will be enough evidence of collusion between Monsanto and the EPA to delay a review by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a public health agency connected to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The text messages show that on June 18, 2015, Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs sent a text message to former EPA toxicologist Mary Manibusan, looking for help finding a contact in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Sachs was looking to communicate with someone in relation to the agency’s ongoing work developing a toxicological profile of glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient. The ATSDR had begun working on the profile after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
In another text, Manibusan told Dan Jenkins, Monsanto’s liaison to U.S. regulatory agencies like the EPA, that he may need help “trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur with this group,” in reference to the ATSDR. By June 23, 2015, Jenkins wrote to his Monsanto colleagues alerting them that Jack Housenger, director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, would put a hold on the report. “ATSDR Director and Branch Chief have promised Jack Housenger (Director of the US Office of Pesticide Programs) to put their report ‘on hold’ until after EPA releases its preliminary risk assessment (PRA) for glyphosate,” Jenkins wrote.
When questioned about these texts by the Pilliods’ lawyers, Reeves confirmed the text messages were authentic, but stated, “I never heard anyone at the EPA say they were going to tell ATSDR what to do.”
The testimony from Reeves comes a week after Dr. Dennis Weisenburger testified that years of spraying Roundup likely caused the Pilliods’ lymphoma. Dr. Weisenburger testified that Alberta used Roundup an estimated 279 times, and Al 729 times—both without wearing protective equipment.“It’s not a hard call,” Weisenburger said on the witness stand, stating that using Roundup more than two days per year doubles the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “It’s the intensity of exposure that’s more important than the length.”
The Pilliods’ trial is expected to wrap up in the coming weeks, with Monsanto’s lawyers beginning their cross examination next week.
The case is the third lawsuit brought against Monsanto in the last two years. In 2018, a California jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup contributed to cancer in DeWayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. In that case, evidence of corporate misconduct played a key role in the jury’s decision. In August 2018, Johnson was awarded $289 million after a jury found that Monsanto failed to notify him and other consumers of the dangers of Roundup. Additionally, a jury in San Francisco recently found that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer played a significant role in contributing to 70-year old Edwin Hardeman’s cancer. Hardeman used Roundup on his 56-acre Sonoma County property for decades before he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. The unanimous verdict concluded a trial that may determine the future of thousands of similar lawsuits filed against biotechnology giant Monsanto.