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expert reaction to US jury ruling that Monsanto product linked to man’s cancer

Monsanto was ordered to pay $289m damages to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate, including Roundup, contributed to his cancer.


Prof Sophien Kamoun, Group Leader, the Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, said:

“Unfortunately, the press coverage of the trial decision does equate this to a decision on glyphosate. But it is more complex than that, and the formulations discussed at the trial from what I understand were a combination of Round Up and Ranger Pro. I think that we as scientists should acknowledge that even if glyphosate is safe there is little data to conclude that Roundup and Ranger Pro are safe.”


Prof Paul Pharoah, Professor of cancer epidemiology, University of Cambridge, said:

“These medico-legal cases are always difficult to make because the concepts of risk and cause in a scientific sense are different to those concepts in a legal sense. The evaluation of all the evidence is very complex.

“The epidemiological evidence that glycophosphates are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma is very weak.  This is why IARC class them as possibly carcinogenic.  Furthermore if there were a risk it is modest and would not be big enough to conclude that it is more likely than not that in any given individual with lymphoma who was exposed to glycophosphates that the exposure was cause of their cancer.

“From a purely scientific point of view I do not think that the judgement makes sense.”


Professor Sir Colin Berry, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at QMUL said:

“The very large number of reviews of the data on glyphosate, by the independent regulatory bodies of many countries, have found no evidence to support the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.

“There is the additional difficulty that Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a  term which describes a number of tumours many of which are known to have distinctive genetic changes, which differ in type. A single mechanism cannot explain them and glyphosate does not damage DNA, in any case.”



Declared interests

Colin Berry: I have taken part in a number of regulatory reviews on herbicides for the UK government , the Joint Medical Panel of the WHO and FAO [JMPR]and have been consulted by Monsanto. I was part of a group of experts which carried out a review for another body which was commissioned by Monsanto.  I have also consulted for Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer.

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