A federal judge has ruled Tuesday that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the hundreds of cases alleging that Monsanto's Roundup causes cancer.
The ruling from Vince Chhabria, the judge in a U.S. district court in San Francisco, came after years of litigations on lawsuits claiming that the chemical glyphosate in Monsanto's weed killer spray has caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
More than 400 lawsuits were filed before Chhabria's court. Meanwhile, Monsanto is facing 5,000 similar court cases nationwide.
After Tuesday's ruling, the plaintiffs' next step is to present proof that Roundup caused cancer in separate individuals, of whom cases will be selected for trials.
The first case to be heard is that of a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, of whom doctors said is already dying of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in just a matter of years.
Glyphosate In Monsanto Roundup
There have been conflicting scientific findings on whether glyphosate caused cancer or not. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded in September 2017 that the chemical is likely "not" carcinogenic to humans, provided it was used in accordance with label directions. The agency noted that scientific studies from other countries concluded the same.
In 2015, the World Health Organization, however, classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans.
Monsanto introduced glyphosate in the market in the 1970s. It has since been sold in more than 160 countries. Farmers in California have been using the weed killer on more than 200 types of crops. Homeowners, meanwhile, used Monsanto Roundup on their lawns and gardens.
In its defense, Monsanto said the allegations were not true.
First Legal Battle Against Monsanto Roundup
Johnson, the man involved in the first case to go to trial, used Monsanto Roundup during his job as a pest control manager at a school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Brent Wisner, his attorney, told the court that Johnson sprayed large quantities of the herbicide from a tank that can hold as much as 50 gallons. At times, when the wind was strong, the chemical would cover Johnson's face. In one incident, the hose attached to the tank got broken and the herbicide soaked Johnson's entire body.
Wisner said Johnson read the product's label and at one point contacted the company when he started to develop a rash. He was never warned that the weed killer was harmful. In 2014, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Photos of Johnson presented in court showed lesions in his body.
George Lombardi, attorney for Monsanto, said the disease takes years to develop and thereby argued that Johnson's cancer started prior his use of Roundup.