Monday, February 17, 2020

Calif. attorney general backs weed-killer victims

Agri-business Monsanto claims that federal ruling supersedes California law as it appeals big cancer award

Who's gonna win in court — cancer victims or the manufacturer of weed-killers that have been deemed apt to cause malignancies?

Monsanto, which produces Ranger Pro as well as Roundup, has, in effect, decided to test that question.
Dwayne "Lee" Johnson

According to a story by Bob Egelko in an edition of the San Francisco Chronicle last week, the giant agri-business is — by challenging a $78.5 million damage award to Dwayne "Lee" Johnson, a Vallejo groundskeeper who was stricken with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 after spraying Benicia school grounds with Ranger Pro for four years — betting a federal ruling supersedes California law.

But Egelko's story indicates that Xavier Becerra, the state's attorney general, told the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco on Wednesday that the 2018 verdict "was valid based on state laws requiring warning labels for cancer-causing chemicals."

Glyphosate, the weed-killers' active ingredient, is the chemical that's been said to be carcinogenic.

Monsanto is depending on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruling — repeated in August — that the chemical is safe. 

Becerra's office, meanwhile, "argued that the EPA's statements about glyphosate, and its approval of a product label without cancer warnings, 'do not carry the force of law.'"

Lawyers from that office also contended that the EPA's stance "does not prohibit a state from finding that the agency-approved label 'is inadequate to protect public health and therefore constitutes misbranding.'"

In a statement, the article continues, Becerra maintained that "California process its residents from dangerous pesticides. We shouldn't be forced to put our heads in the sand simply because the EPA won't do its job."

Johnson's lawyers have said that Monsanto, now a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, "unduly influenced EPA decisions and had 'ghost-written' reports for the government agency."

They furthermore cited a 2015 assessment by an arm of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, that glyphosate was a probable cause of cancer in humans.

The jury that awarded Johnson $78.5 million found unanimously that Monsanto was responsible for his cancer and should have known of the product's perils, Egelko's story notes.

Suzanne Bolano, the San Francisco Superior Court judge in Johnson's case, allowed lawyers to argue that Mosanto knew its product was dangerous and should have informed the public. 

Similar stances were taken by judges in two similar cases where huge verdicts were rendered against the company.

More information on corporations that are blamed for manufacturing products that cause cancer can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers. 

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