Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million in world's first Roundup cancer trial

Aug 10 (Reuters) - A California jury on Friday found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by a man who alleged the company's glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, caused his cancer and ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages.

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging glyphosate causes cancer. Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States.

The jury at San Francisco's Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers.

It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

Monsanto in a statement said it would appeal the verdict. "Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews...support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer," the company said.

Monsanto denies that glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, causes cancer and says decades of scientific studies have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Greenpeace Environmental activists storm the Department of Agriculture Head Offices in Manila, 20 June 2005 displaying banners denouncing BT Corn, a genetically engineered (GE) corn patented and owned by American company Monsanto. Greenpeace denounced Monsanto's claims, that the corn is increasing crop yield and reducing dependence on fertilizers after activists in their researchs revealed that BT-corn seeds cost more and require higher fertilizer input, hence damages the environment. Environmental damage is costing the Philippines at least two billion USD a year, the World Bank said. AFP PHOTO/JAY DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)
SEELOW, Germany: Greenpeace activists fly a kite displaying a giant corn cob 03 May 2005 on an acre in Seelow, eastern Germany, to protest against the cultivation of genetically modified maize. According to Greenpeace, the US company Monsanto disseminated transgenic seeds of the type MON810 on the field. AFP PHOTO DDP/MICHAEL KAPPELER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
Greenpeace activists hang a giant protest banner at a building in Alabang town suburban Manila, 12 September 2003, where US agri-chemical company firm Monsanto's Manila head office is located. Greenpeace accused Monsanto and WTO for alleged environmental destruction and spread of genetic contamination in the Philippines following the release of genetically engineered corn in the country. AFP PHOTO JAY DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL: Greenpeace activists protest in front of Monsanto offices in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 28 January 2005. Greenpeace activists with peasants and members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST in portuguese) attending the 5th World Social Forum, protested against the creation of transgenics by the Monsanto company. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
SEELOW, Germany: Greenpeace activists put up signs reading 'Attention! Genetically modified maize' 03 May 2005 on an acre in Seelow, eastern Germany, to protest against the cultivation of genetically modified maize. According to Greenpeace, the US company Monsanto disseminated transgenic seeds of the type MON810 on the field. AFP PHOTO DDP/MICHAEL KAPPELER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
Activists of the online network 'Campact' protest outside the administrative court in Braunschweig, northern Germany, on April 28, 2009 against a request by US biotech giant Monsanto, against Germany's decision to ban a type of genetically modified maize, MON 810, manufactured by the company. In April 2009 German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner banned the cultivation of MON 810 in Germany. AFP PHOTO DDP/ NIGEL TREBLIN GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Germany, Berlin: 'We are fed up' demonstration. Demonstration against gene technology, food industry and industrialised agriculture and animal husbandry. Title: Skull with 'Monsanto' (multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation) (Photo by Markus Matzel/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
An activist of the global environmental watchdog Greenpeace demonstrates against US biotech giant Monsanto and the commercial sowing of transgenic corn, at the entrance of the Economy Ministry in Mexico City, on November 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ Pedro Pardo (Photo credit should read Pedro PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march on the Meir in Antwerp on May 25, 2013 during a protest against the American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto. Thousands of people rallied in several European cities, notably in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria and Germany, to protest against Monsanto and more generally against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides and other chemical products. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / JONAS ROOSENS **BELGIUM OUT** (Photo credit should read JONAS ROOSENS/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold signs during a demonstration against agribusiness giant Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in front of the White House in Washington on May 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold signs during a demonstration against agribusiness giant Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in front of the White House in Washington on May 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A boy with a Native American dance troupe holds a sign during a protest against agribusiness giant Monsanto in Los Angeles on May 25, 2013. Marches and rallies against Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food and seeds were held across the US and in other countries with protestors calling attention to the dangers posed by GMO food. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] On 25 May 2013, activists around the World united to March Against Monsanto. This event took place in 428 cities in 58 countries.
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] A sign showing displeasure in the practices of agribusiness, Monsanto, rests on the head of an anonymous protester during a gathering in Holladay Park. Portlanders did their part in the worldwide march that took place on 05/25/13. Portland was one of nine Oregon cities to host anti-Monsanto protests to express concern over genetically modified foods.
Activists carry signs during a protest against chemical giant Monsanto in Durban on October 12, 2013. Marches rally against Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO) food and seeds were held across South Africa and in other countries with protestors calling attention to the dangers posed by GMO food. AFP PHOTO / RAJESH JANTILAL (Photo credit should read RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA MAY 23(SOUTH AFRICA OUT): Protesters take part in a march against the American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on May 23, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. The protest forms part of a global day of action against the agricultural biotechnology company. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA MAY 23(SOUTH AFRICA OUT): Protesters take part in a march against the American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on May 23, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. The protest forms part of a global day of action against the agricultural biotechnology company. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JUNE 04: An activist dressed as an ear of corn and protesting against the U.S. agriculture company Monsanto attends a rally following a protest march attended by approximately 30,000 people against the upcoming G7 summit on June 4, 2015 in Munich, Germany. The leaders of the G7 nations are scheduled to meet at nearby Schloss Elmau June 7-8. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Activists take part in a march against US agrochemical giant Monsanto and GMO food products, May 23, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. Thousands of people hit the streets in cities across the world Saturday to protest against the American biotechnology giant Monsanto and its genetically modified crops and pesticides. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A masked individual holds up a sign reading 'Monsanto: this nightmare wants to sell your dreams' during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 at Place de la Republique in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
SANTIAGO, CHILE - JANUARY 22: Protesters took to the streets in downtown Santiago as part of a series of worldwide protests against the free trade agreement between Monsanto Co. and Trans - Pacific Partnership (TPP) on January 22, 2016 in Santiago de Chile, Chile. (Photo by Sebastián Vivallo Oñate/Agencia Makro/LatinContent/Getty Images)
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Johnson's case, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that he alleges was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide. Johnson's doctors said he is unlikely to live past 2020.

A former pest control manager for a California county school system, Johnson, 46, applied the weed killer up to 30 times per year.

Brent Wisner, a lawyer for Johnson, in a statement said jurors for the first time had seen internal company documents "proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer." He called on Monsanto to "put consumer safety first over profits."

Over the course of the four-week trial, jurors heard testimony by statisticians, doctors, public health researchers and epidemiologists who disagreed on whether glyphosate can cause cancer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September 2017 concluded a decades-long assessment of glyphosate risks and found the chemical not likely carcinogenic to humans. But the World Health Organization's cancer arm in 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." (Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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