Nils Klawitter at Spiegel Online, spiegel.de, interviews Brent Wisner, the lawyer who won the recent $289 million verdict against Monsanto.
On Aug. 10, lawyer Brent Wisner, 34, scored a landmark verdict on behalf of his client, cancer patient Dewayne Johnson. A court in San Francisco ruled that Monsanto was guilty of concealing the potential health risks associated with its weed killer glyphosate, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Round Up. The jury ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages to the plaintiff, who had used Round Up at his job as a janitor for a school district. The court said Monsanto should have labeled the product’s possible dangers for consumers. Monsanto, which was recently acquired by German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has denied any link between the product and the disease.
Wisner spoke to DER SPIEGEL about the case in an interview.
DER SPIEGEL: Your law firm is widely considered to be on the side of consumers. You have targeted pharmaceutical companies and intractable airlines. When did you start taking a closer look at Monsanto?
Wisner: It’s kind of in my blood. Even my father was a bit skeptical of pesticides. He networked with farmers and became an activist against the whole chemical thing. Then, two-and-a-half years ago, I received a call from Teri McCall. She was the widow of a farmer who had died of cancer and who had worked for over 30 years with Monsanto products. That was the impetus for our investigation. This summer, Dewayne Johnson approached us as well.
DER SPIEGEL: The dangers of Monsanto products have been under discussion for decades. Why did a court only decide to address the issue now?
Wisner: There are several reasons. The most important was probably the classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization. In early 2015, they evaluated glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Monsanto’s CEO responded by calling it “junk science.” Before that, nobody had collected so much data and looked so deeply at the issue. That was a wake-up call.
DER SPIEGEL: How much does Monsanto have to do with the fact that a verdict was reached only now?
Wisner: A lot! Monsanto has an internal program called “Let Nothing Go.” The aim of this program is to attack scientists who are critical of Monsanto products. They go after people directly and discredit them. They also pay others to do so.
To continue reading: ‘Monsanto’s History Is One Full of Vast Lies’