An expert witness testified in a trial on May 9 that the plaintiff, Sharlean Gordon, developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to her use of the weed killer Roundup, describing the chemical as a potent toxin. Dr. Dennis Weisenburger, a pathologist, explained that Roundup enters the skin and penetrates the tissues and lymphocytes. However, the defense attorneys attempted to discredit Weisenburger, suggesting that he was a biased witness who was well-paid by the plaintiff. They continued to argue that cancer is caused by natural cell mutations, John Sammon of the St. Louis Record reported.
The trial has not concluded, and is taking place in the 21st Circuit Court of Missouri in St. Louis County, headquarters of the former Monsanto Corporation, which was acquired by Bayer AG in 2018 just before the first Roundup trial began. At the time of the Monsanto acquisition, Bayer inherited Monsanto’s legal liabilities over Roundup personal injury claims. Monsanto/Bayer lost the first three highly-publicized consumer Roundup cancer trials. In each of the three trials, plaintiffs ended up receiving tens of millions in damages, and those judgments have stood after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the lower court rulings. In 2020, Bayer settled approximately 100,000 Roundup lawsuits for $11 billion, however, nearly 30,000 plaintiffs refused to join the settlement.
Weisenburger asserted that the additional ingredients in Roundup make it more toxic than glyphosate alone.
The plaintiff alleges that that Roundup caused her to develop a rare form of blood cancer known as large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), also referred to as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). She was diagnosed with the disease in 2006 and underwent treatments that led to remission, although the cancer later recurred, necessitating further treatment. While Gordon has been in remission since 2009, she still undergoes regular check-ups to monitor the possibility of relapse.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses, anxiety, physical pain, and suffering caused by the disease, as well as the ongoing fear of a potential recurrence. Weisenburger, a retired professor from the University of Nebraska and a researcher at the California-based cancer treatment center City of Hope, explained that his work involves studying tissue injuries and identifying diseases through slides. He also investigates the causes of lymphoma.
Weisenburger’s studies on glyphosate involved analyzing animals (mice), human cells, and epidemiology. He emphasized that his research demonstrated the formation of tumors in test mice due to glyphosate exposure, providing evidence that glyphosate can cause diseases, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in both mice and humans. According to Weisenburger, the development of the disease in humans is attributed to oxidative stress.
During the cross-examination, Gordon’s attorney, Aimee Wagstaff, questioned Weisenburger about the two-fold increase in cancer risk associated with glyphosate exposure, which he confirmed. Weisenburger also acknowledged that while obesity is a contributing factor to NHL, the risk of cancer from that cause was low in Gordon’s case.
Weisenburger explained that there is a latency period between Roundup exposure and the onset of illness, and it can vary. He stated that half of the people who develop cancer do so within the first 20 years of exposure, while the other half develop it after 20 years. Weisenburger emphasized the toxicity of glyphosate and noted that individuals who used Roundup more than twice a year had a two-fold increase in lymphoma, which he deemed a significant statistic. He further elaborated on how Roundup, when applied as a spray mist, can be inhaled, but the most critical exposure occurs through the skin, where it can penetrate and cause harm, with surfactants in Roundup increasing its potency.
Wagstaff presented a document indicating that Roundup is 50 to 100 times more genotoxic than glyphosate alone and affects various human tissues, including blood, lymph nodes, and kidneys, which are all exposed during use. Weisenburger authored a scientific paper in 2019 asserting that Roundup is a cause of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.