Trial of The Century: Johnson v. Monsanto

 Monday, July 9, 2018 in the San Francisco County Superior Court, opening arguments were presented in the Johnson v. Monsanto trial. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, 46, a former groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District, is accusing Monsanto of hiding evidence over the past two decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, can cause cancer. Johnson who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in 2014, at age 42 and is the father of three. He claims he developed terminal cancer as a result of using the herbicide Roundup. This case could be the first of what could be a flood of cases accusing the agricultural  and chemical giant Monsanto of distributing deadly poison and trying to cover it up, as documented in Carey Gillam’s book, Whitewash.

 In the opening arguments, Johnson’s lead attorney, Brent Wisner, stated that “a mountain of data” compiled since 2000 show how glyphosate can cause genetic damage that could lead to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He said Monsanto ignored that information and published information “ghost written” by staffers denying the toxicity of the chemical.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel for Johnson stated:

“We’re going to see for the first time evidence that nobody has seen before, evidence that has been in Monsanto’s files that we’ve obtained from lawyers and the people in Monsanto…I don’t think it’s a surprise after 20 years Monsanto has known about the cancer-causing properties of this chemical and has tried to stop the public from knowing it, and tried to manipulate the regulatory process.”

Kennedy said he expects this case will help the 700 other clients he represents who claim to have been sickened by Roundup.

“So many people have been exposed to this chemical, this group of chemicals, and many of them have been injured,” he said. “The science is on our side. It is mountainous.”

 At stake is the future of the herbicide, which brings in about $4.8 billion a year in revenue. Monsanto was recently purchased by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, for $60 billion.  Roundup products are registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, and glyphosate has been found in food and wine, vaccines, breast milk, a variety of water sources, and the urine of agricultural workers and others. A number of countries have policies banning or restricting the sale and use of glyphosate.

Lombardi, the Monsanto lawyer repeatedly pointed to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings approving the use of glyphosate, and argued that the plaintiffs were overstating the significance of IARC’s conclusions. (The IARC found that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” in it’s 2015 report.) He also said Monsanto had been open about its involvement in research, adding: “Testing has been done by independent scientists, by university scientists, by government scientists.”

The plaintiff’s attorney will offer testimony and evidence that the science that Monsanto speaks of has been manipulated and covered up for decades. They will provide compelling documentation on how Monsanto knew that glyphosate and their product, RoundUp, was carcinogenic and did nothing to ensure the safety of the public.

Zen Honeycutt, the founder and executive director of Moms Across America, a non-profit organization working to get Roundup taken off store shelves, stated:

“This is the trial of the century,..The health, economy, and future of America depends on eliminating exposure to toxic chemical products such as Roundup.”

This trial is expected to last over a month and we will continue to follow it and report back to you as the information becomes available.


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  1. Well, done, Carol!
    The EPA policy is to only require long-term safety studies on ONE declared “active” chemical ingredient ( they are all active), not the final formulation. The National Toxicology Program and independent studies have shown that the other ingredients are far more, in fact, 1000 X more toxic than glyphosate alone.
    It is important to note that Mr. Johnson wore full protective gear, and even when water did not penetrate the gear, Roundup did.
    You can do something about the exposure to Roundup by asking Home Depot and Lowes to stop selling Roundup.
    Home Depot 800-466-3337 press 7, 5 (customer care) Email

    Lowes 1-704-758-1000 press 3 Email

  2. I was at the trial yesterday, too, Carol! My impressions of the “Monsanto Trial of the Century,” opening statements in the case of Roundup vs a school groundskeeper dying of cancer, yesterday in SF:

    It was a memorable day of high drama, mixed with hard times of having to sit still in absolute quiet.(not easy for me) The room was filled with journalists and reporters, expert scientific and medical witnesses listening to every word, curious attorneys there to observe, the supportive and loving family of the cancer victim on the back wall, and Robert F Kennedy Jr with the Baum Hedlund law firm and associates, filling the front row. There were 5 Monsanto attorneys at the right front table.

    Sweetly, there was a handsome teenager in the row behind the front row, who looked to be RFK Jr’s son, with the gorgeous Kennedy head of hair, and Kennedy promise and heart, and I believe that he may carry on the Kennedy legacy.

    There was a wall of cameras which met us in the hall, as no filming was allowed, and the Court TV costs $500 to watch(!).

    After getting up at 4 am to drive to SF, with Kat Furey and Rouhi Akbari thru thick traffic, it was hard for me to sit from 9:30 to 4. We had two 5 minute breaks, and 1 ½ hours for a wonderful GF SF lunch at Sweet Maple. I am so glad that I was able to go to this ‘Trial of the Century.’

    I felt sorry, for the jury who must endure many many days of high drama and grinding boredom, sitting and listening stolidly. True heroes.

    The defense lawyer for Monsanto corporation was George Lombardi.
    There was an emotional tone to George’s presentation, which was bizarre and disturbing, considering it was Monsanto.
    George Lombardi was a ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” clone – 143 pounds, slight build, Mr. Roger’s $$$$ haircut. Light grey suit.
    George stood back a bit from the jury, and used light hand motions, mostly with a soft expression, as Mr Rogers would have done. Mr. Roger’s clone..

    I don’t remember if George used the word glyphosate or Roundup… I know they used the word ‘herbicides’ and George opened up with a euphoric statement about how Roundup was made for soil conservation and how Roundup saves farmers from damaging soil tilling and essentially George (Mr. Rogers) Lombardi painted a picture of love and goodness of how Roundup and herbicides will save the precious soils from erosion.

    Brent Wisner was the lawyer for the dying cancer victim, Mr. Johnson, whose supportive family lined the back wall of the courtroom. Brent had kicked off his opening statements by saying that this trial is about providing choice where risks are involved, and about how failure by Monsanto to warn of cancer, was making them responsible for the consequences to cancer victims.

    Mr. Wisner explained at length how thorough and credible the IARC (Intl Research on Cancer) glyphosate cancer studies are. Brent was folksy and approachable, with ‘Gee Whiz country boy style,’ and he broke down most of the terminology so it was simple and understandable, in what will be a trial about hiding of scientific evidence.

    Brent Wisner said the’ 3 pillars of scientific evidence of cancer’ are animal studies (rats n mice called “in vivo”), cell studies (“in vitro”) and epidemiology (studies of populations).
    Mr. Wisner began by displaying (on the large screens in front of the jury) damning emails which had been sent back and forth from Dr. Donna Farmer to her other Monsanto scientist coworkers. The emails pondered how to handle a scientist who had uncovered skin tumors from glyphosate in 40% of glyphosate exposed rats and 0% of unexposed rats.
    Mr. Lombardi defended Dr Donna Farmer by displaying one of her sentences and trying to make it sound innocuous. The emails actually spoke of attempting to change the scientists assessment of the study, and of looking for and getting a second scientist who might be more amenable to the Monsanto version of the rat study and skin tumors.
    George Lombardi pulled out a sentence from Dr. Donna Farmer’s email, and put it up in the screen, picking it apart, to make it sound like she was just doing her job in a harmless way, and not that she was bullying scientists and covering up scientific evidence of tumours.

    The tiny African-American school groundskeeper Mr. Johnson, sat at the table nearest the jury on the left, as George Lombardi stood in front of him and the jury, and laid out Monsanto’s opening statements.

    Mr. Johnson was between chemo treatments and sat resolutely at the table, his body covered 80% with the lesions of Nonhodgkins Lymphoma.
    Over and over and over and over and over, the Monsanto Lombardi called out “Mr. Johnson” this and “Mr. Johnson” that and “Mr. Johnson” this and that for the entire opening statement. The words hit like a hammer. As if Mr. Johnson had done something to offend … and was the defendant, not Monsanto.

    It made my stomach turn.

    There was not one African American on the jury. I trust in a San Francisco jury to do the right thing in this outrageous poisoning of a hardworking family man and husband, just there to do his job. The fact that his job meant spreading poison where children play, weighed heavily on Mr. Johnson and when I spoke with him, I acknowledged him for his courage in standing up and defending our children and school staff. I wished him blessings. He is an amazing man, to have lived long enough to tell his story to the jury.

    Not one expert witness for the Monsanto defense will appear before the jury in person, just endless videoed depositions. One video is sixteen hours long, Brent Wisner warned the jury, and endlessly boring ,he apologized. Brent will present snippets of the depositions to the jury.

    Mr. Wisner told of how Mr. Johnson contacted Monsanto, when the first Nonhodgkins lymphoma lesion appeared on his knee, and asked Monsanto if Roundup could be causing his lesion, and how Monsanto never warned Mr. Johnson that there was an association between Roundup and skin tumours, which they knew.

    So Mr. Johnson continued using Roundup one more year. He contacted them multiple times and they never answered that question for him.

    Mr. Lombardi adamantly insisted that EVERY ingredient of Roundup was tested by the EPA to be safe. Mr. Wisner called for a private sidebar with the judge and Mr. Lombardi after the statements about the EPA.

    George kept waving his hand and saying loudly and proclaiming that there is OVERWHELMING evidence of safety from years and hundreds of scientists. He used HUGE to describe the evidence of Roundup safety.

    Of course the Roundup mixture has NEVER been tested for safety.

    Brent Wisner used a brilliant analogy to explain what ‘synergy’ means, when the ingredients are mixed together.
    He said that 1 + 1 is 2, but with ‘synergy,’ 1 plus one can be five or six. Such as mixing baking soda and vinegar.

    1. my correction on my post: the family members who were sitting on the back wall were family members related to someone other than Mr. Johnson.

  3. Are we even surprised that Monsanto (MonSatan to some) would cry their denial of the toxicity of it’s most profitable product. Cancer, suffering, destroyed lives, ….who cares about collateral damage when there are obscene amounts of profit to gain!! $60Billion a year relieves alot of guilt and buys alot of lawyers. Remember, this is the company that sold the world Mustard Gas, DDT, PCB’s, Dioxin’s, Agent Orange, rBGH, Aspartame, RoundUp with glyphosate, and GMO’s – playing God all along and promoting corporate virtue signalling while the world suffers from its effects. Ask what has MonSatan done to help the multi-generational affect of chromosonal damage and horrifically deformed babies born from the after affects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The answer is not a damned thing. Google Vietnam’s Agent Orange Babies to see what Monsanto is really about. Heartless, vile, profit-at-any-cost evil. AND DON’T FORGET OBAMA and his “Monsanto Protection Act”, which was designed to protect Monsanto against any crimes resulting from its products. That is Obama’s legacy.

  4. Let’s keep in mind all those “unbiased and scientific” papers that support Monsanto are anything but! For instance, back in the 2000 paper by Williams, Kroes, and Munro, they state up front that they use a weight-of-evidence methodology that avoids “a situation that could permit one experimental text result to be accorded greater weight over others.” Thus, this permits the authors and Monsanto in future years to group scrupulously researched papers with their unpublished, anonymous, and other papers with serious conflicts of interest. Thus, the 2004 Joint FAO/WHO paper that found “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk” was based on a bibliography that included 99 industry submitted papers out of a total of 134 references. Using the 2000 methodology of Williams, Kroes, and Munro’s weight-of-evidence, of course, the FAO/WHO would not find a cause and effect. And, that does not even suggest that professors Alan Boobis and Angelo Moretto, who sat on the FAO/WHO committee were receiving over a million dollars from Monsanto and Crop Life International for their International Life Science Institute! As The Guardian said, “There is a clear conflict of interest here if the review of the safety of glyphosate is carried out by scientists that directly get money from industry.”

    Another example is important. In Greim’s ghostwritten paper, “Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies,” the authors of those fourteen studies critical of the Seralini report were or had been employees of Monsanto or were directly associated with Monsanto, Bayer, the Glyphosate Task Force, etc.

    Lastly, it should be stated that the pseudoscientific weight-of-evidence used by agribusiness is nothing more than a measurement of the strength of a grouping and is used in the credit and financial industries “to predict the risk of a loan default.”

  5. In the meantime while we patiently wait for what we already know to be true…Many are dying and others are prey as long as the product is permitted to be on store shelves… What about the list of fighting Cancer victims waiting for a resolve and an opportunity to be heard Where is true justice?

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