After it was introduced in the 1970s, Roundup was promoted as an “herbicide that gets to the root of the problem.”
Now, four decades later, manufacturer Monsanto will face a lawsuit that seeks to get to the root of another problem: whether the active ingredient in the weed-killer is to blame for a California man’s terminal cancer. If Monsanto fails to persuade the court that its product isn’t to blame, the agricultural company’s flagship product could take a hefty hit.
Billions in revenue could be at stake for Monsanto and its new corporate parent, German chemical giant Bayer, which delivered $4.8 billion in revenue in 2015. In its latest fiscal year, Monsanto cited higher global sales of glyphosate for helping lift total revenue by 8 percent.. While Monsanto doesn’t break out sales of glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup — the product
Monsanto declined to comment on the potential sales impact, citing the trial proceedings. In a statement earlier this month, it told CBS News it denied the allegations.
“We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the court,” it said.
The risk to Monsanto and Bayer may come from several fronts. First, consumers who use Roundup at their homes may shy from purchasing it if the court finds in favor of Johnson. Second, regulators in Europe, where glyphosate has been contentious, may step up their scrutiny, Gillam said.
The EU last year gave the green light to continued use of the herbicide, but the vote passed with the narrowest margin possible. French President Emmanuel Macron is among those who has supported phasing out the weed-killer.
European lawmakers who wanted to ban glyphosate point to findings by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency that it’s “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The group’s report on glyphosate is also included in Johnson’s support for his claims.
On the other side of the debate are studies that refute reports of glyphosate’s dangers, such as a long-term study of agricultural workers that didn’t find a link between Roundup and cancer.
“There is also certainly a great debate over whether or not science proves definitively if this causes cancer,” Gillam noted. Asked if she uses Roundup herself, Gillam said, “I loved Roundup, years ago. I used it around my yard to kill weeds. Now, of course, I’m very nervous about using it, or any type of weed-killer.”