A Washington D.C. judge rejected a motion by Monsanto to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association, two consumer advocacy groups that allege Monsanto’s labeling of its Roundup weed killer is misleading.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said in his ruling on Saturday that his decision was based on briefs from both sides and applicable law. Judge Kelly noted that he will further explain his decision in an opinion that will be issued within the next 30 days.
Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association filed the class action against Monsanto in April of 2017 on behalf of the general public under Washington D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising. The Consumer Protection Procedures Act has a three-year statute of limitations.
Class Action Against Monsanto Claims Roundup Label is ‘False, Deceptive, and Misleading’
The class action against Monsanto accuses the agrochemical giant of misleading consumers by representing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, as targeting an enzyme that is “found in plants but not in people or pets.”
According to the complaint, this statement on the Roundup label is false, deceptive, and misleading because the enzyme that glyphosate targets is, in fact, is found in people and pets.
“Glyphosate functions as a biocide by inhibiting the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate (“EPSP”) synthase, disrupting the fifth of six enzymatic steps in the shikimate pathway, which processes aromatic amino acids in certain organisms. Although humans and other mammals themselves do not have a shikimate pathway, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, including beneficial bacteria that inhabit the mammalian gut and are essential to overall health. EPSP is therefore “found in . . . people [and] pets. Just like it inhibits EPSP synthase in weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup inhibits EPSP synthase in these human and pet gut bacteria, and just like it targets weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup targets the human and pet gut bacteria.”
In their briefs, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association said Roundup’s label deliberately conceals relevant facts from consumers about the potential effects glyphosate can have on their bodies and health.
Gut bacteria play a critical role in human health, and consumers deserve accurate information about any chemical that targets enzymes that affect gut bacteria, even if the enzymes are not produced by their own cells, the briefs said.
The class action against Monsanto seeks disgorgement of company profits stemming from sales of Roundup in Washington, D.C. for an unspecified period.
Saturday’s ruling is setback for Monsanto, which faces another class-action lawsuit in Wisconsin based on similar allegations related to Roundup. The Wisconsin class action was filed by a class of plaintiffs from California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin. Unlike the Washington D.C. case, the Wisconsin class action names Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. as a defendant.
The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case are represented by the law firms of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman P.C., Richman Law Group, the Miller Firm LLC, Andrus Wagstaff LLP, Gabrielli Levitt LLP, Kennedy & Madonna LLP, Turke & Strauss LLP, and Weitz & Luxenburg P.C.
Glyphosate the Subject of Worldwide Scrutiny Over Cancer Link
Glyphosate has been the subject of worldwide scrutiny for years. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, completed an exhaustive review on published literature for glyphosate. The IARC Monograph concluded that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen and the cancer most associated with exposure to glyphosate is non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
The IARC report kickstarted litigation against Monsanto filed by farmers, agricultural workers, backyard gardeners, government workers, landscapers and a host of others who allege their non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by exposure to Roundup.
These individual lawsuits differ from the class action against Monsanto in Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. Whereas the class actions involve allegations of ill-begot gains via Monsanto’s mislabeling of Roundup, the individual lawsuits seek remedy for personal injuries (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) sustained due to exposure to Roundup. These individuals allege Monsanto knew about the link between exposure to Roundup and NHL but failed to warn consumers.
As of this writing, Monsanto is facing more than 380 lawsuits that have been combined in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in San Francisco before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. Thousands of other lawsuits have been filed in state courts in Arizona, California, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska, and elsewhere.