MOAMA farmer Ross Wild is the first farmer in Australia to launch legal action against global chemical giant Monsanto, claiming its product Roundup has caused his cancer.
Mr Wild, 67, has used Roundup on his mixed farming property since its introduction in Australia in 1976 according to the ABC.
Last year, Mr Wild was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and he claimed long-term exposure to Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, is to blame.
But his suit will not have the support of the National Farmers Federation – the industry’s peak body – which has repeatedly endorsed the scientific reports which have supported the safety of the chemical.
The ABC said Mr Wild will be represented by Melbourne-based lawyer Tony Carbone, managing partner of Carbone Lawyers.
In June, Mr Carbone began another case against the chemical giant, with 54-year-old Melbourne gardener Michael Ogliarolo the first Victorian suit against Roundup.
Mr Wild's case was lodged with the Victorian Supreme Court last week. Monsanto, which is owned by pharmaceutical conglomerate, Bayer, was being served writs for both cases before the end of last week, according to Mr Carbone.
He said the warnings on Roundup bottles were inadequate and his client’s clothes and body had been ‘drenched’ in the herbicide during a 40-year period of use.
The plaintiff is pursuing punitive damages, or punishment for failing to properly warn consumers of the dangers of use, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, potential loss of income, and medical expenses including gratuitous services associated with his care.
“The company has always promoted the product as being safe. In fact, in some instances, it said it was ‘safer than table salt’,” Mr Carbone told the ABC.
“The average person, including farmers and gardeners, would think ‘OK, if it's marketed like that then it can't be unsafe’.”
The Australian cases follow similar trials in the US which have seen courts order Monsanto to pay out billions of dollars in compensation.
In a statement, Bayer Australia said it had great sympathy for any individual with cancer, but the “extensive body of science” on glyphosate-based herbicides supported the conclusion Roundup did not cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
“We firmly stand behind the safety of glyphosate-based products and, as a company devoted to life sciences, assure Australians that their health and the environment are our top priority,” it said.
“At the end of the day, whether you're in the court of law, regulatory agencies or court of public opinion, it's the science that should matter here. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Sanchia Aranda said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
“While some of the evidence has shown mixed results, after reviewing hundreds of studies, the IARC concluded that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic in humans’,” she said.
“The apparent increased risks were mainly found in agricultural workers, and the main cancer type associated with use was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”