The next asbestos? What do the Monsanto trials mean for the future of Roundup

Protest march against Monsanto Co in Paris, France, May 23, 2015.Monsanto is facing thousands of lawsuits claiming its product Roundup causes cancer.

It’s been touted as the next asbestos and compared to the cover-ups by big tobacco companies last century, but agribusiness giant Monsanto insists Roundup doesn’t cause cancer.

Three US juries disagree, and the company is facing 13,400 plaintiffs who claim the most commonly used herbicide in the world is the reason they have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It’s what’s called a mass tort litigation, with lawsuits involving multiple plaintiffs against one defendant, in this case Monsanto, and involves multiple trials in different jurisdictions.

Unlike a class action, injuries suffered by the plaintiffs in mass torts aren’t always the same; they are usually similar but can be wider ranging and individualised.

In the US, mass torts against pharmaceutical companies are the most common, but other well-known mass torts include cases like asbestos.

Key points:
  • Roundup is the most commonly used herbicide in the world and its active ingredient is glyphosate
  • Agribusiness giant Monsanto has lost three trials in the US over links between cancer and glyphosate
  • It’s been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in damages to four cancer patients, with thousands more plaintiffs awaiting trial

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