German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer has agreed to pay more than US$10bn to end tens of thousands of current and potential lawsuits filed over its Roundup weedkiller, the company announced Wednesday.
When Bayer acquired American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto in 2018, the world’s best-known weedkiller, Roundup, was included in the deal.
At the time, Bayer knew it was inheriting a public relations and litigation crisis, but always maintained that Roundup’s active weed-killing ingredient, glyphosate, was safe.
Fast forward to today and Bayer still adopts the same stance in regards to glyphosate, with its chief executive, Werner Baumann, saying the settlement should not be seen as an admission of liability or wrongdoing, but rather a way of bringing “a long period of uncertainty to an end.”
Bayer’s Roundup issues aren’t over
Despite allocating as much as $9.6bn to resolve current Roundup litigation, the pool of money will not settle all of the 125,000 current lawsuits Bayer is facing.
Approximately 30,000 claims still remain unresolved, but these are expected to be included in the agreement eventually, according to Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Washington lawyer who oversaw the mediation process.
In addition to the $9.6bn, Bayer has also set aside $1.25bn to cover potential claims in the future.
WHO: ‘Roundup probably causes cancer’
In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer labelled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” However, Bayer continues to sell Roundup, insisting that it is safe when used as directed.
Many government health agencies around the world agree with Bayer, deeming glyphosate safe to use and not banning it from sale.
However, the plaintiffs who filed lawsuits against Bayer say Roundup’s active ingredient caused them to develop cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — something that juries in three separate trials have agreed with.
Three trials and more than $2bn later
In the first trial in 2018, Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper, was awarded $289m after a jury in a California state court concluded that glyphosate caused his cancer.
Then, in March 2019, Edwin Hardeman, a homeowner who had frequently used Roundup on his properties, was awarded $80m by the federal court in San Francisco.
Just two months later, in a third separate case, Bayer was ordered to pay a staggering $2bn to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a couple who said that decades of using Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Despite all three monetary awards being later reduced by judges, Bayer’s Roundup problems have shaken investors and taken their toll on the company’s share price in recent times.
As at time of writing, Roundup still remains on sale, although Bayer has said it is committed to developing more products so that consumers have options when choosing herbicides.
For concerned consumers, there are a number of effective alternatives to Roundup out there, including Nontox, which has completed efficacy trials on the most common and destructive weeds in Australia. This non-toxic, non-selective bioherbicide is safe to use around children, pets and even bees.