Summary of the Case
In September 2016, experts from the Environmental Working Group conducted independent laboratory research on a manufacturer of popular children’s breakfast cereals. It was found that 43 of the 45 flakes produced per breakfast contained a significant dose of glyphosate, an active component of herbicides. Glyphosate is an excellent weed control agent, but according to the latest research, it has carcinogenic properties. A lawsuit against the company Monsanto, which produces herbicides, has been filed by several people with cancer.
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Product Liability: Negligence, Breach of Warranty, or Strict Product Liability?
This example illustrates the concept of Warning Defect, which is a classic subspecies of strict product liability. The problem is that the manufacturer initially claimed that the safety of the glyphosate is comparable to cooking salt, so he did not see any problem in the active use of this herbicide for field treatment. Of course, after the crop cleaning procedures, trace amounts could remain in the flakes (Cressey, 2015). In 2015, WHO postulated that glyphosate could cause cancer if the concentration in a product exceeded 160 ppm, which is common in almost any herbicide-treated commodity.
The Conclusion of the Case
This story is far from over: the FDA has begun extensive checks on the detection of carcinogens. Only two out of a thousand lawsuits filed against Monsanto are satisfied as of 2019. As a result, each of the victims has received monetary compensation for the harm caused to their health.
The Effects on the Company
First of all, it affected the reputation and financial sphere of Monsanto. As a result of the lawsuits, the price of the company’s shares fell by half, and the management company Bayer lost $50 billion in market capitalization of production (Bollinger, 2019). However, to date, Monsanto employees continue to inform their customers, whose numbers have been significantly reduced, that the Roundup product is safe and does not cause any disease.
Personal Reflection of the Conclusion
Monsanto cannot be blamed for the use of the potentially dangerous chemical glyphosate: all the necessary licensing commissions and certificates confirmed its safety in 2013. However, as early as 2015, the rules changed, and the company became the addressee of hundreds and thousands of court appeals (Bollinger, 2019). Currently, safety or hazard studies are ongoing, so it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the safety of glyphosate (Cressey, 2015). There is no denying the company’s undeniable guilt, as there are several proven cases of harm to health. I am convinced that as part of Monsanto’s ethical policy, it would be wise to stop releasing potentially dangerous drugs on the market the same day that the carcinogenic data became known, and to withdraw all copies sold. In that case, the company’s reputation would not have collapsed as severely.
Possible Complications of the Case
Leading consumers of biotechnology company Monsanto are Americans. In this case, the situation is somewhat alleviated, because if the product were imported, the detected carcinogenicity would become a source of political conflict with the producer state. Furthermore, Americans with varying degrees of harm to health would probably not have been able to obtain justice and monetary compensation so quickly, as U.S. law does not apply to other countries.
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Bollinger, T. (2019). FDA supports corporate interests as Monsanto’s lies are exposed. Web.
Cressey, D. (2015). Widely used herbicide linked to cancer. Nature, 24, 1-3.