In 1901, John Francis Queeny founded a new chemical company in St. Louis. He called it Monsanto, naming it after his wife’s maiden name. Today, Monsanto employs about 5,000 people in St. Louis, which represents about a quarter of the company’s entire workforce.
Missouri’s relationship with Monsanto hasn’t always been a good one, and that combined with the centrality of agriculture to Missouri’s economy has many people across the state concerned about whether they may have gotten sick by using Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup.
What should Missouri residents know about Roundup, the class-action lawsuits over this herbicide, and their legal rights to seek recourse if they used it and got sick with cancer?
- What Does Roundup Do?
- Is Roundup Dangerous?
- What’s the Current Status of Roundup Litigation?
- How Much Can I Get From a Roundup Lawsuit in Missouri?
- What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
What Does Roundup Do?
Roundup is the best-selling weedkiller in history, but its story started in a completely different way. Let’s look at the history of Roundup, Monsanto’s legacy in Missouri, and the possible health effects Roundup has on people.
History of Roundup
Glyphosate had for decades been used in the commercial plumbing and heating industry to remove scale from pipes, boilers, and other large equipment. But a Monsanto researcher in the early 1970s discovered that it could also be used to kill weeds.
In 1974, Monsanto received a patent for glyphosate as an herbicide, and the company began selling it under the brand name Roundup. The product became wildly successful, and Monsanto in the 1980s and 1990s began releasing Roundup Ready seeds that would allow for glyphosate to be used broadly in farming.
Missouri & Monsanto
As we mentioned, Monsanto’s roots in Missouri are deep. While the company was purchased by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer a few years ago, Monsanto remains a clear presence in St. Louis and across Missouri.
Missouri is also the site of many of the lawsuits that have been filed against Monsanto, and while the trials are on hold as settlement negotiations proceed, it’s expected those trials will continue if talks do not resolve the matter.
In March 2020, Missouri farmer Bill Bader won a landmark case against Monsanto for the damage caused to his peach trees by the chemical dicamba —the key ingredient in another herbicide manufactured by the company. The verdict would seem to indicate that the tide is beginning to turn against Monsanto in its home state.
Roundup & Missouri Agriculture
Roundup is massively successful as a product, being used by homeowners to control vegetation around their homes, by commercial landscapers to control overgrowth, and by farmers to enhance crop yields. But because of its sheer scale, agriculture dwarfs all other uses.
How widely used is it in Missouri and across the country when it comes to farming? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 3.8 billion pounds of glyphosate have been used on U.S. farms since 1992, with about 164 million being used in Missouri.
Let’s take a closer look at farming and glyphosate in Missouri:
- Since 1992, 164 million pounds of glyphosate have been used on Missouri farms, which is the 10th-highest of any state.
- In 2017, the most recent year for available data, about 10.4 million pounds of glyphosate were used in Missouri agriculture, which represents a 158% increase since 2000.
- Glyphosate is the most used herbicide or pesticide in Missouri farming by a factor of nearly three.
- Soybeans (65%) and corn (27%) account for the majority of glyphosate used in the state, while cotton contributes about 5% and rice accounts for just over 1%.
- Missouri is the nation’s sixth-largest producer of soybeans, generating about 283 million bushels in 2020, 551 million bushels of corn (ninth), and 685,000 bales of cotton (seventh).
Is Roundup Dangerous?
Monsanto and its parent company have routinely claimed that Roundup is perfectly safe, but three juries have disagreed, and recent science backs that up. A University of Washington study found that exposure to Roundup boosted the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%.
Let’s take a closer look at non-Hodgkin lymphoma and why Roundup remains available for purchase.
What Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is the cancer at the heart of most of the 125,000 cases against Roundup, and all the plaintiffs who have received jury verdicts have that form of cancer.
Like all types of lymphoma, NHL begins in the white blood cells and can spread throughout the body. Multiple forms of lymphoma fall under the NHL umbrella, but they are distinct from another well-known type of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma.
NHL is relatively common, accounting for about 4% of all cancer cases. It’s projected that about 82,000 people will be diagnosed this year, while 21,000 will die from the disease.
Any Missouri resident who used glyphosate or Roundup should pay attention to their body for the following symptoms, though signs of NHL can vary from person to person:
- Chest pain
- Easy bruising
- Frequent, severe infections
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen abdomen
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
If you have noticed any of these signs and especially if you’ve had more than one, you should contact your doctor right away. The good news is that NHL can be treatable if it’s discovered early. In fact, the five-year survival rate for early-stage NHL is 73%; that falls to 57% if the disease is not caught until it has spread throughout the body.
Roundup’s Regulatory Status
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists glyphosate as non-carcinogenic, meaning the agency does not find evidence about the toxicity of glyphosate to be compelling. But other voices disagree.
The states of California and New York, many communities across the country, and international groups have differing views, including the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm.
Even the EPA at one time had determined Roundup to be a danger. Between 1985 and 1992, the EPA listed glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, changing its mind after controversy and possible pressure from Monsanto.
Barring a legal challenge, New York will be the first state to formally ban glyphosate on state grounds, and many other communities have restricted or outright banned the product, even for residential use.
What’s the Current Status of Roundup Litigation?
Of the 125,000 lawsuits over Roundup, only three have completed the trial process. In each case, plaintiffs were awarded multimillion-dollar verdicts, with jury members being compelled to agree that, not only did Roundup cause cancer, but that Missouri-based Monsanto knew its product was dangerous but did nothing to safeguard the public.
Awards have totaled more than $2 billion, and while each has been lowered on appeal, after facing three straight losses, in 2020, Bayer proposed setting aside $10 billion to end most of the pending cases and another $2 billion for potential future cases.
Negotiations over those proposals are ongoing, and some plaintiffs have balked at what could amount to small awards, considering that jury trials have all ended in blockbuster sums.
Still, Bayer remains in court over appeals in two of the three cases, giving up appeals in the first case in March 2021. None of the people who have been awarded these big verdicts have gotten the money yet, and negotiations of settlement offers are ongoing.
Labeling Class-Action Settlement
A settlement over a separate class-action lawsuit has been approved in Missouri and could impact you if you purchased Roundup because of language on the product label. Because of misleading phrasing that indicated it could not harm you or your pets because it attacks a specific plant enzyme, Missouri residents who bought Roundup after Feb. 13, 2014 could receive up to $90 of a $40 million total settlement figure.
How Much Can I Get From a Roundup Lawsuit in Missouri?
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know what the average Roundup victim could expect to receive if they filed a lawsuit in Missouri over the product. The trials in Missouri state court over Roundup were paused as settlement negotiations continued, and it is currently not known when or if they will continue.
The settlement proposal by Bayer does offer some clues, though, if Roundup victims choose to go the settlement route. It’s been reported that the average victim would receive about $165,000 if the settlement is approved as-is, while certain factors, like age and extent of disease, would impact the amount.
Monsanto is no stranger to lawsuits with people in Missouri and across the country. In 2003, the company agreed to pay $600 million to settle about 20,000 groundwater contamination claims in Alabama and, as noted above, in 2020 a peach farmer in Missouri won a $250 million verdict over damage caused by Monsanto’s pesticide dicamba.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Affected by Roundup?
If you’re a Missouri resident who used or was exposed to Roundup or glyphosate, you should stop using the product as soon as possible. If it’s necessary for your job, speak with your supervisor or employer to see if they can provide you with a safer alternative.
For Missouri residents who used Roundup and later got sick with non-Hodgkin lymphoma or another disease, there is still time to make sure you can seek justice for the damages you’ve suffered. The best way to determine your legal course of action is to speak with an expert Roundup class-action law firm in Missouri, and we can help connect you with a firm in your area.
Consultations are usually free, and you likely won’t pay any legal fees unless you win your case.