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"Bayer is confident based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label".

A California jury ordered chemical giant Monsanto to pay almost US$290 million on Friday for failing to warn a dying groundskeeper that its weed killer Roundup might cause cancer.

Bayer completed its $66bn takeover of Monsanto in June.

A groundskeeper who developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using Monsanto's weed-killers for years is entitled to $39 million in compensation and $250 million in punitive damages, a California jury has decided.

The lawsuit was filed by Dewayne Johnson, who alleged the company's glyphosate-based weed-killer products such as Roundup and Roundup Pro caused his cancer.

Johnson is one of some 5,000 plaintiffs across the USA and his victory is likely to lead to many more claims against Monsanto, which was recently bought by Geman chemical giant Bayer AG. The latest annual report of Monsanto's India unit states that its brand Roundup maintains market leadership with sales of around Rs 185.66 crore, which is 28 percent of its net sales of Rs 667.44 crore in FY18.Roundup is primarily used in agriculture and places like roadsides, public spaces, railway tracks and gardens.

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers.

The World Health Organisation classified the herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a draft risk assessment that the pesticide glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, was "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans". California added glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Glyphosate's licence was extended for five years in Europe by the European Union last November, despite a petition by 1.3 million European Union citizens calling for a ban.

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Jurors in California superior court agreed the product contributed to Johnson's cancer and the company should have provided a label warning of the potential health hazard.

What happened in the groundsman case?

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"I understand that we all have sympathy for Mr Johnson, certainly the jury had sympathy for Mr Johnson, but that should not change the manner in which legal decisions are made".

Following eight weeks of trial proceedings, the San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $250m punitive damages, along with compensatory damages and other costs, bringing the total figure to almost $290m.

He sprayed large quantities from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck and during gusty winds the product would cover his face, one of his lawyers, Brent Wisner, told the court.

"When you are right, it is really easy to win", he said.

Dr Jayasumana, the head of the Department of Pharmacology at the Rajarata University, said that with this ruling they ensure that the people affected by the agrochemical in Sri Lanka get some form of justice through legal action.

"'We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family", Partridge said.


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