A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay over $2 billion in damages, over twice the amount they were requesting.
This is the third loss awarded, the last one being for 78 million, in lawsuits alleging that the popular herbicide Roundup, containing glyphosate, has caused or contributed to cancer. Estimates are there are another 11,000 cases pending in the US alone.
Roundup is a popular pesticide used here in Costa Rica, and a University of Costa Rica Study found that gyphosate use had increased 50 times since it was first imported in 1982. It is used on sugar cane plantations, small agricultural farms, pastures and on roadsides to keep weeds at bay. Manual clearing can keep weeds clear for a few months whereas using herbicides can double the time the area is clear of weeds and at a lower cost for the farmer.
Considering about 1/3 of the population is employed in agriculture, cattle and fishing industries, many people could be at risk, depending on exposure levels.
Currently glyphosate is banned by 21 municipalities, and the National Technical University. In addition to agricultural uses it is applied in urban parks, cemeteries, roundabouts, sidewalks and roadsides.
It should be noted that Monsanto's parent company, Bayer, insists there is no relationship between the component and cancer, and will appeal the cases as they come forward. Nonetheless, glyphosate is prohibited or restricted in Portugal, Holland, Italy, France, Belgium, Malta and Sri Lanka as well as regions in Canada and Spain.
A recent study in Sri Lanka indicated there was a co-relation between Costa Rica and Sri Lanka in the incidence of Chronic Renal Failures with the use of glyphosate herbicide and consumption of water containing elevated levels of heavy metals.
The Guanacaste region has a volcanic origin which allows for a higher levels of heavy metals and arsenic in groundwater, coupled with the use of fertilizers and herbicides, all add to the potential health risks.