Hundreds of Australians diagnosed with cancer are fighting in court to prove their disease stemmed from a component of a widely used herbicide.
The landmark class action, launched by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on behalf of more than 800 complainants with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, alleges a component in the popular Roundup weed killer called glyphosate caused their disease.
Many of the people who have joined the class action used Roundup as part of their work, Maurice Blackburn national head of class actions Andrew Watson said.
The lead applicant in the Federal Court of Australia case, Kelvin McNickle, used the herbicide to spray weeds as part of his work for two decades, Watson said.
Others in the case were exposed to the weed killer through domestic use.
"We cover a gamut of ordinary Australians who have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma through their exposure to Roundup," Watson told reporters.
Federal Court proceedings that started today are intended to determine whether Roundup contains a carcinogen.
The first part of the case is slated to run for nine weeks, before further issues are dealt with.
The civil action has been launched against Monsanto, which produced the weed killer. Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018.
"The upshot is, we are confident that Monsanto did everything it could to avoid confronting the reality that this chemical was a carcinogen and did everything it could to obscure the science and hide the science," Watson said.
Bayer says glyphosate-based herbicides have been rigorously tested in hundreds of studies, and the weight of that extensive body of science confirms that glyphosate is safe when used as directed and is not carcinogenic.
"Monsanto's defence of the claim demonstrates Bayer's ongoing commitment to supporting Australian farmers by ensuring innovative products such as Roundup continue to be available, advancing sustainable agriculture and protecting food security," it said in a statement.
Lawyers on Monday morning said McNickle was unable to attend the hearing because he was undergoing treatment.