620 cases claiming that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer) causes cancer are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The first bellwether trial is scheduled to begin on February 25. The court has granted Monsanto’s motion to bifurcate, ruling that the bellwether plaintiff’s attorneys will initially be prohibited from introducing evidence that Monsanto attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion. The jury will hear such evidence only if it finds that glyphosate caused the plaintiff’s cancer and the trial proceeds to a second phase to determine Monsanto’s liability. However, the court added, “if the plaintiffs have evidence that Monsanto manipulated the outcome of scientific studies, as opposed to agency decisions or public opinion regarding those studies, that evidence may well be admissible at the causation phase.”
The trial will be a classic battle of the experts. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer arm classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”; but in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached the opposite conclusion. The court has already ruled that expert witness testimony supporting both positions (for the plaintiff and the defense, respectively) will be permitted. For regular updates on this case and other Roundup litigation (there are 9300 case pending in state and federal courts nationwide), see https://usrtk.org/pesticides/monsanto-roundup-trial-tracker/.