Updated at 6:20 p.m., June 24, with comments from Bayer officials.
German biotech giant Bayer AG has agreed to pay up to $10.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims that its popular weedkiller Roundup has caused people cancer.
Bayer bought Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in the summer of 2018. The settlement covers about 95,000 federal lawsuits filed against Monsanto that claimed that exposure to the product caused people to have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare blood cancer. It also includes $1.25 billion to address potential future lawsuits from Roundup consumers who may develop the cancer.
Company officials had considered continuing to litigate Roundup cases but chose to settle because the costs of going to trial would exceed the settlement, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said.
“We are convinced this position brings to an end to the significant uncertainties and confusion caused by the three Roundup verdicts [in California] and the volume of pending litigation,” Baumann said. “This is the right action, at the right time, for Bayer.”
Bayer officials said the company will continue to manufacture and sell Roundup products.They also announced Wednesday that it will pay $400 million to settle claims from farmers that drift from its dicamba product, Xtendimax, had damaged their crops.
“By putting these cases behind us, we can now focus on innovation to bring new products to our farmers,” said Lisa Safarian, president of Bayer Crop Science in North America.
Many lawsuits were filed after the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a group of global health experts, found in 2015 that Roundup’s key ingredient glyphosate could cause cancer. Bayer officials have asserted that Roundup is safe for consumers to use.
No other groups of global health experts have come to the same conclusion as IARC did in 2015, said Bill Dodero, global head of litigation for Bayer Crop Science.
“The fiction of what has occurred in the courtrooms is very different than what is happening in the expert regulatory bodies worldwide that have continued to conclude that glyphosate can be used safely and is not carcinogenic,” Dodero said.
The company also plans to form an “independent Class Science Panel” to determine if using Roundup could cause someone to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed in January that the chemical glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer. A federal judge in California also ruled earlier this week that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to support the state’s requirement to label glyphosate-based herbicides with cancer warnings.
Several environmental and food safety groups have long warned the public about the risks of using Roundup and supported consumers who sued Monsanto.
"No financial settlement can make good the pain, suffering and lives lost to Monsanto's cancer-causing Roundup, but this settlement at least provides some small restitution, and more importantly will help dissuade others from putting themselves at similar risk by using this hazardous product," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.
Trials for Roundup lawsuits in St. Louis were delayed this year to provide more time for lawyers to negotiate the settlement and to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
Washington Lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg handled mediation of the settlement between the corporation and 25 law firms. Feinberg also previously handled funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C..
The settlement does not address more than 25,000 claims from plaintiffs who did not agree to be part of it. Feinberg told the New York Times that he expects those plaintiffs will eventually join the settlement.
The settlement also does not include three lawsuits Bayer lost in the last two years in California, where juries awarded four people more than $2.3 billion. The corporation is continuing to appeal the suits.
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