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Dewayne Johnson against Monsanto, glyphosate exposure, California, USA


In 1974, Monsanto began manufacturing Glyphosate or  Roundup as a marketing brand. Nowadays, the toxic is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops.  For more than one decade glyphosate has been a matter of concern for environmental justice organizations as it is recognized as a hazardous substance for human health. Despite the exhaustive campaigns against glyphosate and Monsanto, only a few countries have banned its use. 

According to scientific studies, not only those who have direct exposure to glyphosate can be affected. Significant levels of glyphosate have been found in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars marketed to US children. Also in water sources and agricultural´s workers´urine. Glyphosate is a treat to all of us, and the case of Dewayne Johnson -an ex-gardener- can be understood as a precedent for the whole world. 

Dewayne Johnson is a 46 years old man who worked as a groundskeeper and pest-control manager at the Benicia Unified School in the District of Vallejo in California. From 2012 until May 2016 he sprayed Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate (Roundup and  Ranger Pro as marketing brands), according to him,  from 50-gallon drums 20 to 30 times a year for two to three hours a day.

In 2014, Dewayne began to experience severe skin irritation which he reported to health care providers. He also contacted Monsanto, asking if his skin irritation could have been causing by Roundup but he never got a response. In September 2017, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer. According to him, this was caused by his exposure to RoundUp during his work. 

In Jan 2016, Dewayne initiated the present action against Monsanto on January 28, 2016, demanding a trial by jury. On June 26, 2016, Monsanto filed his answer, also demanding a trial by jury. Plaintiff initially filed a Motion for Trial Preference on July 21, 2017, and the parties subsequently stipulated to a June 18, 2018 trial date. 

Contested Science

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer. The company presented studies during the trial that countered the research and testimonies submitted by Johnson’s lawyers.  These latter argued over the course of a month-long trial that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product.

In 2015, the EPA said that glyphosate has a low toxicity for people but could cause problems for some pets if they consume the chemical. The same year,  the World Health Organization’s (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

In Jun 2018 the Court rules in favor of Dewayne Johnson and ordered to pay $280.000.000 Us dollars to the victim. 

After the trial, Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, rejected any link between glyphosate and cancer, insisting the “verdict doesn’t change the four-plus decades of safe use and science behind the product”. Monsanto announced it will appeal against the verdict.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Dewayne Johnson against Monsanto, glyphosate exposure, California, USA
Country:translation missing: en.countries.united_states_of_america
State or province:California
Location of conflict:District of Vallejo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Agro-toxics
Specific commodities:Herbicides
Chemical products

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

-Glyphosate is widely known for its role in agriculture due to the domination of GMO crops modified to resist this toxic herbicide. Is the world’s most widely used herbicide.

- In 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

-Two market brands are: Roundup and Ranger Pro, two herbicides.

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/2016
End of the conflict:2018
Company names or state enterprises:Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Bayer from Germany
Relevant government actors:Californian Courts

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsPotential impacts on children (from the Benicia Unified School)


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:Banning glyphosate worldwide
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:-Benicia school district already stopped using glyphosate.
-The court finds in favor of Dewayne
-Dewayne Johnson is the first person to take Roundup maker to trial. However, his case will be useful as a snowball. Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to begin in 2018 in St Louis, Missouri and according to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Trial Transcripts

Monsanto Court Papers



References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Glyphosate Residues in Groundwater, Drinking Water and Urine of Subsistence Farmers from Intensive Agriculture Localities: A Survey in Hopelchén, Campeche, Mexico

Roundup Cancer Study – Published Research

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup?

El jardinero con cáncer terminal que ganó a Monsanto una demanda por US$289 millones

The man who beat Monsanto: 'They have to pay for not being honest'

Judge slashes award by jury in Monsanto weed-killer cancer case

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man's cancer

One man's suffering exposed Monsanto's secrets to the world

Monsanto says its pesticides are safe. Now, a court wants to see the proof

Homebase to review sale of Monsanto weedkiller after US cancer verdict

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades

Bayer's Monsanto asks U.S. court to toss $289 million glyphosate verdict

BUSD, city discontinue use of glyphosate products

Monsanto to ditch its infamous name after sale to Bayer

Monsanto's 'cancer-causing' weedkiller destroyed my life, dying man tells court

Roundup and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman firm

Germany + 13 Other Countries Say No to Glyphosate: What About the U.S.?

Australia urged to restrict Monsanto's Roundup after US court rules it caused cancer

The Miller Firm is a national practice representing individuals who have been seriously injured by pharmaceutical or other defective products.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson at Work

Other documents

Protesters gather outside the European Commission in Brussels on November 9, 2017. © Emmanuel Dunand, AFP |

Protests against Monsanto

Dewayne Johnson in the US Courts

Other comments:“They have to pay the price for not being honest and putting people’s health at risk for the sake of making a profit,” said Dewayne Johnson.

Meta information

Contributor:Grettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update05/11/2018



Protests against Monsanto

Protesters gather outside the European Commission in Brussels on November 9, 2017.

© Emmanuel Dunand, AFP |

Dewayne Johnson in the US Courts