Monsanto would have had to adopt the precautionary principle

Monsanto aurait dû adopter un principe de précaution

Photo: Josh Edelson Agence France-Presse
Dewayne Johnson is embracing one of his lawyers after the reading of the verdict of his appeal against Monsanto in San Francisco on Friday.

The science is not settled at the court of justice, but the responsibility of companies, if. The recent judgment in the case of Dewayne Johnson against Monsanto does not seal the scientific debate on the glyphosate, but it suggests that the giant of the agrochemical industry should adopt the precautionary principle in order to better protect the client.

Last Friday, the superior Court of the state of California also sentenced Monsanto to compensate for the height of 289 million u.s. dollars a gardener has cancer, apparently caused by the herbicide glyphosate to the multinational company. The complainant, Dewayne Johnson, suffers from non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and the doctors give him less than two years to live.

“The scientific literature does not explain how the herbicide glyphosate causes non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it is still an association at the epidemiological level,” says Élise Caron-Beaudoin, toxicologiste and fellowship in public health at the University of Montreal. “There was no consensus, but there are enough little red flags to adopt the precautionary principle “, the judge said it.

“Very clearly, glyphosate and its adjuvants [the other substances which enter into the composition of the Roundup] are cancer-causing substances,” said the Dr. William Robert Sawyer, the toxicologist testifying at the trial in california. “Additives increase the carcinogenicity of glyphosate by several mechanisms,” he added.

A question of dose

For the past few years, large agencies from the environmental and health divide on the issue of herbicides containing glyphosate such as Roundup. Studies on human cells and mice have shown a carcinogenic effect, but the consequences in a real context are less clear. In toxicology, it’s all a matter of dose.

However, in the context of his work, Mr. Johnson was exposed to very high doses of the herbicide. He sprinkled it in large quantities from a tank of 200 liters mounted to his truck. The wind blew sometimes the product in its direction, smearing his face, he reported to his lawyer.

According to the verdict, Monsanto would have failed to protect Mr. Johnson by not focusing enough on the risks that represents a strong exposure to its herbicide. The “negligence” of the multinational company has significantly contributed to the harm suffered as a gardener for 46 years, to be contrasted to the jury.

The illness of Mr. Johnson could have been avoided, ” noted Dr. Sawyer at the hearing. “If there are clear signs, if the users know that they are dealing with a carcinogen, and that it is used in limited quantities without producing aerosols that circulate in the air, then [the herbicides based on glyphosate] can be used [safely]. “

Authors ghosts

The jury also heard to say that ” clear and convincing evidence shows that Monsanto has acted with malice or oppression “. At trial, many of the documents unearthed in June 2017 by the newspaper le Monde, hailed as the ” Monsanto papers “, have convinced the jury of the bad faith of the company.

On the second day of the hearing, on July 10, counsel for the complainant has carried out an examination very tight with William Heydens, the head of product safety at Monsanto, whose practices are not honest had been highlighted in the ” Monsanto papers “.

Mr. Heydens would have organized the writing a scientific article by ” authors ghost “, employees of Monsanto, before you ask external researchers to affix their signature. This deception was for the purpose of meeting at the international agency for research on cancer, an agency which depends of the UN, which classifies glyphosate as ” a probable carcinogen “, in march 2015.

Saturday, Monsanto and its owner, Bayer, defended the safety of glyphosate and have indicated that they would be appealing the decision. More than 4000 complaints similar to that of Mr. Johnson are waiting.

With Agence France-Presse and Associated Press