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Bayer's CEO says company is set to 'vigorously defend' glyphosate

Bayer says glyphosate is a key tool for farmers as they try to control weeds and produce enough corn and other crops to help feed the world.
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

Bayer is gearing up for legal battles surrounding a Monsanto-developed weed killer. The German conglomerate has outlined plans to defend a key ingredient in Roundup, only days after starting to integrate the operations of the two companies.

Werner Baumann, Bayer’s chief executive officer, said a California jury’s decision to award nearly $290-million to a man who claims Roundup gave him cancer is inconsistent with research showing glyphosate, a key ingredient, does not cause the disease.

“While we are very sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family,” Baumann said during a conference call Thursday with reporters, “but glyphosate was not the cause.

This was the first time Bayer officials have directly addressed this month’s verdict in the case of California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. He claims repeated use of Roundup eventually led to his terminal cancer diagnosis.

A San Francisco jury agreed and decided Monsanto should pay him $289 million.

Bayer officially took over Monsanto’s operations a few days later, after completing a roughly $65 billion acquisition of the St. Louis-based company this year.

Baumann said Bayer performed “appropriate due diligence” on the controversial weed killer before moving ahead with the deal and is convinced the jury made the wrong decision.

“A verdict by one jury, in one case, does not change the scientific fact and the conclusions of regulators that glyphosate does not cause cancer,” he said, emphasizing the "not."

“The science, the data, the facts and the regulatory standing clearly stand in favor of glyphosate.”

Opponents have long disagreed and many point to a World Health Organization report from a group of scientists who concluded it was “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

But as NPR has reported, several other scientists and regulatory agencies who examined glyphosate have a different conclusion. That includes research by the National Institutes of Health.

Those results have Bayer preparing to spend plenty of time in courtrooms defending Roundup, which is still widely used in the agricultural industry.

The company is filing motions in California with the aim of reversing the jury’s decision. If that doesn’t work, Baumann said the company will take the case to that state’s court of appeal.

Bayer’s lawyers are also getting set for more legal showdowns. The next trial is scheduled for late October in Missouri state court in St. Louis.

And it may not end there.

“The number of plaintiffs across both state and federal litigation is approximately 8,000 as of the end of July,” Baumann said. “Our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs' cases.”

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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