The next asbestos? Could Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup cause cancer?

8th Aug 2019

There have recently been a number of highly-publicised disputes against Monsanto in the US, with plaintiffs alleging that, as a result of its use of the weedkiller, Roundup, they have developed cancer. Four plaintiffs have been awarded significant payouts, the most recent being for $2.89 billion (US). Another 13,400 plaintiffs have now commenced legal action.

And, last month, we saw the first action being brought in Australia.

Melbourne man, Michael Ogalirolo, was a gardener for 18 years, and he used Roundup up to four times per day. He has no family history or risk factors associated with cancer, yet he has developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He alleges that a diminutive compound found in the weedkiller called glyphosate is responsible.

He claims that the dangers associated with using Roundup have not been adequately brought to consumers’ attention, noting how easy it is to access Roundup at hardware stores and that the packaging contains no recommendation that users wear any safety equipment.

So, what is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a compound commonly used in agriculture to kill weeds and help with unwanted grass management. The salt form of glyphosate is also used to facilitate plant growth and to ripen fruit. Around the home, it is most commonly found in weedkillers. Roundup, for example, contains up to 20% glyphosate.

Watch this space…

Because the cases in the US are the first cases in which plaintiffs have sought to establish a link between Roundup and cancer, much of the evidence they relied on was medical and scientific. While some plaintiffs have been successful in establishing this link, Monsanto maintains that Roundup is safe. It is expected that the company will appeal the decisions, arguing that some of the scientific evidence should not have been admitted by the courts.

So it remains to be seen whether in Australia glyphosate, like asbestos, will be recognised by the courts as a cause of cancer. Nonetheless, we are likely see more cases brought against Monsanto in coming months and years – both in Australia and overseas.


This is an edited version of an article originally published on the Johnston Withers Lawyers website, which can be found here.

Tim Downie has had over 20 years’ experience in personal injury law including 13 years as the South Australian Practice Group Leader of the national law firm, Slater + Gordon, and currently works at Johnston Withers, a South Australian owned and run legal practice. Tim has acted in all areas of personal injury/compensation law, representing people who are injured at work, as a result of a motor vehicle accident, public accident or professional negligence, or suffered through exposure to asbestos.  For Tim, achieving significant results in the face of adversity and helping people who need it most is the core of his practice in personal injury law. A particular attraction of Johnston Withers for Tim is the ability to offer his expertise in asbestos litigation to Johnston Withers country offices, specifically Whyalla, a town with a history of heavy asbestos exposure through the ship building industry.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

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Tags: Health, medicine and law consumer rights Tim Downie Payout Science and the law Scientific evidence Glyphosate