Monsanto has gone to great lengths to keep documents secret during litigation; judge threatened sanctions

Monsanto has a lot to hide. Repeatedly named as the world’s most evil corporation and known for inspiring protests around the planet, their list of wrongdoings is lengthy and continues to grow. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they have a lot of documents that they’d like to keep out of the public eye, and new information shows how desperate they are to try to keep the proof of their evil ways from surfacing.

Monsanto is currently facing a slew of lawsuits filed by Americans who claim exposure to their Roundup herbicide has caused them or a loved one to develop a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The lawsuits are being dealt with together as multi-district litigation in San Francisco under Judge Vince Chhabria in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, although it’s worth noting that they will be facing hundreds of other lawsuits in several other states as well.

In the California cases, Judge Chhabria appears to be growing impatient with Monsanto’s tactics, threatening to sanction them if they continue with “overbroad” efforts to keep certain relevant documents from being released to the public, U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam reported in EcoWatch.

He made his feelings clear when he told attorneys on both sides of the case: “I have a problem with Monsanto, because it’s—it is insisting that stuff be filed under seal that should not be filed under seal.”

He added that when the documents are “relevant to the litigation, they shouldn’t be under seal, even if they are not — are embarrassing to Monsanto, you know, even if Monsanto doesn’t like what they say.”

The judge has also greenlighted a request by the plaintiffs to obtain documents and depose one of Monsanto’s key European former officials.

Is the EPA in bed with Monsanto?

The question at the heart of the lawsuits is whether or not Roundup causes cancer and if Monsanto covered up the risks or ignored them. However, the litigation could also shed light on possible governmental collusion with Monsanto when it comes to its assessment of glyphosate. There have long been concerns among some at the EPA that the chemical is carcinogenic, and several studies have shown that the ingredient itself, and products it is formulated with like Roundup, could be carcinogenic, but the EPA has repeatedly insisted it is unlikely to cause cancer.

The plantiffs’ attorneys now say they have found evidence pointing to collusion between at least one EPA high-level official and Monsanto, something that Monsanto vehemently denies.

The firm has already had to turn over nearly 10 million documents to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, including ones that detail the interactions that took place between Monsanto and EPA officials like Jess Rowland. Rowland is believed to be behind the leak of a report that was favorable to Monsanto just as they were trying to gain re-approval for glyphosate in Europe and keep it off California’s list of chemical carcinogens. Rowland left the EPA shortly afterward and hasn’t commented on the matter. Chhabria has said documents about the issue are relevant and should not be sealed, so they could be available in court filings in the near future.

Other documents that were recently unsealed in the case show that Monsanto hired ghostwriters to draft scientific research under the names of noted academics. Those documents showed how Monsanto executives like William F. Heydens conspired to hire academics to put their names on papers written by Monsanto ghostwriters that placed their products in a more flattering light.

It will be interesting to see what other dirty secrets Monsanto is trying to keep hidden when future court documents are unsealed in the many lawsuits the firm is facing.

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