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St. Louis Judge Delays Roundup Cancer Trial To Give Attorneys Time To Seek Settlement

Barbara Chicherio, of the Gateway Green Alliance, protests Monsanto outside the Civil Courts Building on Jan. 24, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Barbara Chicherio of the Gateway Green Alliance demonstrates against Roundup on Friday outside the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis.

A St. Louis circuit court judge has postponed a trial for a lawsuit that alleges the Monsanto weed killer Roundup caused people to develop cancer. 

Opening statements in the case were scheduled for Friday. But Judge Elizabeth Hogan continued the case indefinitely to give attorneys for Monsanto and four plaintiffs time to work on a settlement, according to a statement from Bayer.

Tens of thousands of people have sued Monsanto, alleging that they developed cancer after using Roundup. German biotech company Bayer AG bought Monsanto in 2018. 

“This continuance is intended to provide room for the parties to continue the mediation process in good faith under the auspices of [mediator] Ken Feinberg, and avoid the distractions that can arise from trial,” said a statement from a Bayer spokesperson. 

The lawsuit is the first to combine multiple cancer claims about the herbicide. Christopher Wade of St. Louis, Glen Ashelman of Pennsylvania and Bryce Batiste of Texas argue that years of exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. Another plaintiff is Floye Ann Meeks of Florida, whose husband Chester Meeks died of the disease. 

Bayer’s attorneys have proposed that the company pay $10 billion to settle existing and future cancer claims about Roundup, according to Bloomberg. Mediator Kenneth Feinberg is handling the settlement negotiations for the Roundup-related lawsuits. He told Reuters last week that he was “cautiously optimistic that a settlement will ultimately be reached.” 

Feinberg also administered the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which allocated more than $7 billion to survivors and their families. 

Bayer lost three trials over Roundup-related cancer claims in the last two years in California, where juries awarded four people more than $2.3 billion. The Virginia-based law firm that won two of the lawsuits also represents the plaintiffs in the St. Louis lawsuit. 

Many lawsuits were filed against Monsanto after a team of scientists organized by the World Health Organization labeled Roundup’s key ingredient glyphosate in 2015 as a “probable carcinogen.” U.S. regulatory agencies and scientists have released conflicting assessments about the dangers of being exposed to glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate does not pose a risk to public health

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated key details. Tens of thousands of people have sued Monsanto, alleging they developed cancer after using Roundup. Bayer AG, which bought Monsanto in 2018, has lost three trials in the last two years in California. The plaintiffs argue that Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Plaintiff Floye Ann Meeks of Florida lost her husband Chester Meeks to the disease.

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.