(Reuters) - A federal U.S. judge on Tuesday allowed hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto Co’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer Roundup causes cancer to proceed to trial, finding that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, California, followed years of litigation and weeks of hearings about the controversial science surrounding the safety of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weed-killer.
Monsanto is a unit of Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE), following the $62.5 billion takeover of the U.S. seed major which wrapped up in June.
Chhabria in his 68-page opinion called the plaintiffs’ expert opinions “shaky” and entirely excluded the opinions of two scientists. But he said the findings of four remaining experts were nevertheless admissible as a reasonable jury could conclude that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans.
More than 400 farmers, landscape artists and consumers, whose lawsuits have been consolidated before Chhabria, allege Monsanto’s weed-killer caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cell cancer originating in the lymphatic system.
Monsanto denies the allegations and in a statement said it would continue to defend the lawsuits with robust evidence that proves there is “absolutely no connection between glyphosate and cancer.”
The company had told Chhabria in March that none of the plaintiff experts satisfy any scientific or legal requirements for admissibility and urged the judge to end the litigation.
Robin Greenwald and Aimee Wagstaff, two of the lawyers representing the people suing the company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Monsanto points to more than 800 studies and reviews that conclude glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September last year concluded a decades-long assessment of the risks of glyphosate and concluded the chemical is not likely carcinogenic to humans. But the World Health Organization’s cancer arm in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Frances Kerry and Marguerita Choy