A jury ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. to pay a combined $2.05 billion ($3b) to a couple claiming that the company's popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers.

The jury's verdict is third such courtroom loss for Monsanto in California since August.

The state court jury in Oakland concluded that Monsanto's weed killer caused the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod each contracted. Jurors awarded them each US$1b in punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

A federal jury in San Francisco ordered the weed killer maker in March to pay a Sonoma County man US$80m. A San Francisco jury last August awarded US$289m to a former golf course greens keeper who blamed his cancer on Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide. A judge later reduced the award to US$89m.

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The three California trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 lawsuits pending against Monsanto across the country to go to trial. St. Louis-based Monsanto is owned by the German chemical giant Bayer A.G.

Bayer said that it would appeal the verdict.

"The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances," the company said.

The company noted that none of the California verdicts have been considered by an appeals court and that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers the weed killer safe.

The EPA reaffirmed its position in April, saying that the active ingredient glyphosate found in the weed killer it posed "no risks of concern" for people exposed to it by any means — on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.

Lawsuits have battered Bayer's stock since it purchased Monsanto for US$63b last year and Bayer's top managers are facing shareholders discontent.

- AP