Bayer settles three quarters of the glyphosate lawsuits in the United States in one fell swoop. The group plans to continue selling the controversial herbicide without restrictions.
Bayer frees itself from the legacy issues of the Monsanto takeover: the pharmaceutical and agrochemical company has reached an agreement with a large proportion of the plaintiffs in the dispute over the allegedly carcinogenic weed killer glyphosate in the United States. To do this, Bayer has to dig deep into their pockets – for the comparison and possible future cases, up to $10.9 billion will be due, as the company announced on Wednesday evening.
This means that about three quarters of the total of 125,000 lawsuits filed and threatened are off the table. Other lawsuits relating to the weed killer Dicamba and the chemical PCB, which Bayer had acquired with the approximately $63 billion acquisition of the glyphosate developer Monsanto, are also to be settled.
“For Bayer, the round-up comparison is the right step at the right time to end a long period of uncertainty,” said CEO Werner Baumann. However, he also admitted that Bayer unfortunately paid “a terrible amount of money” for a product that was completely in line with the regulatory requirements. The group has always rejected the allegations against glyphosate and pointed out that regulatory authorities worldwide assess the herbicide as safe when used properly. The US environmental agency EPA also backed Bayer and banned warnings of possible cancer risks.
The cancer research agency IARC alone classified the active ingredient in 2015 as “probably carcinogenic”, the plaintiffs based their assessment. Bayer now plans to continue selling Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate weed killer without restrictions. Baumann said Bayer chose the comparison because a year-long process marathon in the United States with an uncertain outcome would probably have become far more expensive. The Management Board expects to be able to reach an agreement with the other cases at short notice.
The ongoing proceedings cost Bayer between $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion, and $1.25 billion are reserved for potentially future lawsuits. A U.S. district judge has yet to approve the agreement for possible future cases. Under the agreement, an independent science panel will be set up to decide whether Roundup causes lymphoid cancer.
Glyphosate is most commonly associated with this type of cancer. Bayer said that both the group of possible future plaintiffs and the company itself are bound by the decision of the body. However, Baumann was confident that the body would follow the assessment of global regulators. However, the decision should take around four years. So long the future plaintiffs should not make further claims.