Though the recent verdict of a San Francisco federal jury linking Roundup weed killer to cancer was the second in the U.S. in less than a year, Louisiana chemical industry officials don’t expect any changes to production at the Monsanto facility in Luling where Roundup’s chemical components are made.
A spokesperson for Bayer, which has been Monsanto’s parent company since a mid-2018 acquisition, also says the company has no plans to scale back its production of glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Roundup.
But environmental groups believe the ruling could be a turning point in a long-fought battle against Monsanto and the potent chemical the company makes.
“We are going to be watching them very closely and also watching how much is being released into the air and land so we have some idea whether portions of it are having an impact on our communities,” says Wilma Subra, chemist and advisor to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, or LEAN.
Monsanto’s St. Charles Parish facility has been the chief source of Roundup’s key ingredient for years. In 2008, the company announced a major $196 million expansion to the facility, which it said at the time would enable it to increase Roundup production.
More recently, in 2016, it announced a $975 million expansion to the plant to increase production of dicamba, another pesticide used in some Roundup products. The expansion is expected to be complete this summer.
On March 19, a federal jury in San Francisco rendered a unanimous verdict that found glyphosate causes cancer.
Last August, another California jury awarded $289 million to a plaintiff after finding Roundup caused his cancer. That judgment has since been knocked down to $78 million and the case is on appeal. But literally thousands of similar suits around the U.S. have been filed.
Local environmentalists believe the last week’s verdict will only increase that number.
“At the very least, this will open them to massive litigation,” says Darryl Malek-Wiley of the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and regulators in several countries have found glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic to humans, but the World Health Organization in 2015 classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”