The fallout from a controversial Californian court decision which found the commonly used herbicide Roundup causes cancer, is now being felt in Australia.
Hundreds of users of Roundup here are preparing legal cases against chemical giant Monsanto, the manufacturer of the weed killer. Their cases add to the already 17,000 cases launched in the United States.
In his first Australian media interview, Lee Johnson the Californian cancer sufferer who was the first to take legal action against Monsanto tells Bartlett he was required to regularly use Roundup while working as a school groundsman.Â
Johnson says despite always using the chemical carefully and following the instructions on the packaging, in 2014 he was diagnosed with incurable non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
In August last year, a jury determined exposure to the chemical had caused Johnson’s cancer and awarded him US$289 million compensation, later reduced to $78 million.Â
Monsanto are appealing the amount of damages awarded to Mr Johnson.
Brett Wisner, Lee Johnson’s lead attorney, says the legal cases exposing the risks of Roundup are reminiscent of the cases against tobacco companies.
“Right now, we’re in that moment when the first lawsuits exposed the truth about cigarettes,” Wisner told Bartlett.
“40 years from now, we’re going to look back at this time and go, what fools we were. Of course it causes cancer. How did it take us so long to figure it out?”
But farmers across Australia are reluctant to accept Australia’s most popular weed killer could be lethal.
They argue Roundup is fundamental to farming and revolutionised Australian agriculture when it was first introduced 40 years ago.
They also point to the hundreds of studies that find no link between Roundup’s key ingredient glyphosate and cancer.
“Farmers across Australia at the moment really are incredibly worried about this hype that’s going on worldwide,” President of the National Farmers Federation, Fiona Simpson, tells 60 Minutes.
“We have to stay with the science, we have to stay with the facts: there is no link.”
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