Litigation against Syngenta grows; lawyers fight over evidence and trial dates

Syngenta AG is facing a growing number of U.S. lawsuits over allegations that its paraquat herbicide causes Parkinson’s disease, with a Fresno, California man pushing for an expedited trial that potentially would start within the next few months, and multiple plaintiffs’ lawyers jockeying for power and influence over future trial proceedings.

Plaintiff George Isaak used paraquat to treat weeds on orchard and vineyard property from 1964 through 2004, mixing, loading and spraying the pesticide routinely before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in May of 2020, according to his lawsuit.

Isaak used a 200-gallon “spraying rig” on the 60-acre farm where he raised peaches, nectarines, almonds, pistachios, and grapes before retiring in 2005. Isaak, 84, now has such severe Parkinson’s symptoms that he has suffered several falls, finds it hard to speak, and is confined to a wheelchair, according to his lawyers.

Isaak attorney Mike Miller said his client has been left with “horrible” injuries from Parkinson’s.

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‘The harm to children is irreparable’: Ruth Etzel speaks out ahead of EPA whistleblower hearing

The US Environmental Protection Agency is failing to protect children by ignoring poisons in the environment and focusing on corporate interests, according to a top children’s health official who will testify this week that the agency tried to silence her because of her insistence on stronger preventions against lead poisoning.

“The people of the United States expect the EPA to protect the health of their children, but the EPA is more concerned with protecting the interests of polluting industries,” said Ruth Etzel, former director of the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP). The harm being done to children is “irreparable”, she said.

A hearing will be held on 13 September in which several internal EPA communications will be presented as evidence, including an email in which EPA personnel discuss using press inquiries about Etzel as “an opportunity to strike” out against her. Among many witnesses to be called to testify are several former high-level EPA officials.

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Appeals court rejects Bayer’s bid to overturn Roundup trial loss, slams company for ‘reckless disregard’ for consumer safety

Monsanto owner Bayer AG has lost another appeals court decision in the sweeping U.S. Roundup litigation, continuing to struggle to find a way out from under the crush of tens of thousands of claims alleging that Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicides cause cancer.

In a decision handed down on Monday, the 1st Appellate District in the Court of Appeal for California rejected Monsanto's bid to overturn the trial loss in a case brought by husband-and-wife plaintiffs, Alva and Alberta Pilliod.

"We find that substantial evidence supports the jury's verdicts," the court stated. "Monsanto's conduct evidenced reckless disregard of the health and safety of the multitude of unsuspecting consumers it kept in the dark. This was not an isolated incident; Monsanto's conduct involved repeated actions over a period of many years motivated by the desire for sales and profit."

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Bayer heads into next U.S. cancer trial, opening statements set for Thursday

Despite Bayer AG’s efforts to put an end to costly litigation inherited in its acquisition of Monsanto, opening statements in yet another trial are set for Thursday as a woman suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma claims Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused her cancer.

A jury of seven men and five women have been seated in the case of Donnetta Stephens v. Monsanto in the Superior Court of San Bernardino County in California.  Judge Gilbert Ochoa was hearing last-minute arguments over evidence on Wednesday.

The trial comes a week after Bayer announced it would stop selling Roundup, and other herbicides made with the active ingredient glyphosate, to U.S. consumers by 2023. Monsanto was purchased by Bayer AG in 2018, and Bayer insists, just as Monsanto has for decades, that there is no valid evidence of a cancer connection between its weed killing products and cancer.

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New Roundup cancer trial starting in California

Lawyers representing a woman suffering from cancer are prepared to face off against Monsanto and its German owner Bayer AG in a California courtroom on Monday in what is set as the fourth trial over allegations Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killers cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Jury selection in the case of Donnetta Stephens v. Monsanto is expected to take several days and the trial itself is expected to last up to eight weeks. Judge Gilbert Ochoa of the Superior Court of San Bernardino County in California is overseeing the proceedings.

Monsanto has lost three out of three previous trials, with a jury in the last trial – held in 2019 – ordering a staggering $2 billion in damages due to what the jury saw as egregious conduct by Monsanto in failing to warn users of evidence – including numerous scientific studies – showing a connection between its products and cancer. (The award was later shaved to $87 million.)

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Bayer gets lift in pre-trial ruling ahead of Roundup cancer trial

A California judge gave Monsanto and its German owner Bayer AG a pre-trial boost in a ruling issued Monday, a week before the scheduled start of a new courtroom challenge to the safety of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides.

Judge Gilbert Ochoa of the Superior Court of San Bernardino County in California agreed with Monsanto that federal law regarding pesticide regulation and labeling preempts “failure to warn” claims under state law, and the plaintiff in the trial set to start next week will not be allowed to pursue such claims.

“The Court grants Defendant Monsanto Motion for Summary Adjudication of the 2nd and 4th causes of action on the grounds the failure to warn or concealment of glyphosate’s link to cancer is expressly and/or impliedly preempted” by federal law, Ochoa wrote in his order.

The decision was “surprising” to plaintiff’s attorney Fletcher Trammell, who is representing plaintiff Donnetta Stephens in the case against Monsanto. “Obviously we disagree,” he said. The issue could be subject of appeal at some point, he added.

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Corporate studies asserting herbicide safety show many flaws, new analysis finds

A new analysis of more than 50 previously secret, corporate-backed scientific studies is raising troubling questions about a history of regulatory reliance on such research in assessing the safety of the widely used weedkilling chemical known as glyphosate, the key ingredient in the popular Roundup herbicide.

In a 187-page report released on Friday, researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria said a thorough review of 53 safety studies submitted to regulators by large chemical companies showed that most do not comply with modern international standards for scientific rigor, and lack the types of tests most able to detect cancer risks.

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Elderly woman to take on Monsanto in next trial over cancer claims

An elderly California woman who was a regular user of Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer for more than 30 years is set as the next person to try to prove that exposure to the chemical causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a claim already won by plaintiffs in three previous trials.

The case of Donnetta Stephens v. Monsanto is set for trial July 19 in San Bernardino County Superior Court in California. Stephens from Yucaipa, California was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in 2017 and has suffered from numerous health complications amid multiple rounds of chemotherapy since then. Because of her poor health,  a judge in December granted Stephens a trial “preference,” meaning her case was expedited, after her lawyers informed the court that Stephens is “in a perpetual state of pain,” and losing cognition and memory.

Several other cases have either already been granted preference trial dates or are seeking trial dates for other plaintiffs, including at least two children, suffering from NHL the plaintiffs allege was caused by exposure to Roundup products.

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Outrage as regulators let pesticides from factory pollute US town for years

For years, the people of Mead, Nebraska, have worried about the ethanol plant that moved into their small rural community a little over a decade ago. They feared the terrible smells and odd illnesses in the area might be connected to the plant and its use of pesticide-coated seed corn in its biofuel production process.

Those concerns recently turned to outrage and anger after environmental regulators were forced to acknowledge that under their oversight the AltEn LLC ethanol plant has been contaminating the area with an array of pesticides at levels much higher than what is considered safe.

The contamination has been ongoing for years, exacerbated through accidental spills and leaks of the plant’s pesticide-laden waste, which has been stored in poorly maintained lagoons and piled into hills of a putrid lime-green mash called “wet cake”. The company had also distributed the waste to area farmers for spreading across fields as “soil conditioner”.

It was only earlier this year – after media reports exposed the problems – that state officials ordered the plant to close, and began efforts to clean up what many in the community see as a sprawling environmental disaster.

The state attorney general’s office then sued the company for multiple alleged environmental violations, citing “an ongoing threat to the environment”, and late last month Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill restricting the use of pesticide-treated seeds for ethanol production.

Residents of Mead say the crackdown on the plant is welcomed, but, in many respects, is far too late. The lingering impact of the pollution won’t simply end with the new law, nor will many of the industrial agriculture practices that caused it. Instead, the pollution continues to wreak havoc and there are fears that Mead’s trauma may be repeated in other small towns across the state where large-scale industrial agriculture practices continue.

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Another delay for trial set to examine allegation that Syngenta weed killer causes Parkinson’s

A highly anticipated first-ever trial pitting a group of farmers against the global agricultural giant Syngenta AG over allegations that Syngenta’s paraquat weed killer causes Parkinson’s disease has been delayed again and may not take place at all, according to sources close to the case.

The trial in the case of Hoffman V. Syngenta was scheduled to start June 1 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois before Associate Judge Kevin Hoerner. Previously it was set to begin May 10, and prior to that it had a trial date in April.

The cancellation of the June 1 trial date came amid speculation that the parties are deep into settlement talks. No new trial date has yet been set, according to a St. Clair County Circuit Court clerk.

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