Bayer’s CEO suggested last week that the company could eventually settle thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits, but only if costs associated with the growing litigation become excessive.
“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” Werner Baumann told members of the German media during a recent tour of Monsanto’s research and development facilities in St. Louis, Missouri.
For the time being, however, Bayer will continue to aggressively defend itself against claims that glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup – causes cancer.
Bayer acquired Monsanto earlier this year for $63 million.
As part of the acquisition, it inherited more than 8,700 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits filed over glyphosate’s alleged link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.
The nation’s first Roundup cancer trial concluded in August, when a San Francisco Superior Court jury unanimously awarded $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former school district groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following years of repeated glyphosate exposure.
The judge overseeing the case recently reduced punitive damages by $210 million, bringing the total award to $78 million. However, Bayer is continuing to pursue its appeal of the verdict.
In addition to Roundup – the most popular weed killer in the world — glyphosate is an ingredient in several other Monsanto herbicides, including:
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen”, after its independent review linked the chemical to an increased risk of cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
In addition to denying any link between glyphosate and cancer, Monsanto has worked aggressively to discredit the IARC findings. According to some critics, Monsanto’s efforts in that regard have included undue influence on subsequent research involving the herbicide.
Those claims gained traction in October, when Critical Reviews in Toxicology acknowledged that Monsanto had played a major role in 5 glyphosate studies that contradicted the IARC conclusions. Monsanto’s participation was not disclosed when the studies were published in the journal last year.
According to Reuters, the value of Bayer’s stock has dropped roughly 25% in the wake of the first Roundup lawsuit verdict. With investors worried that the growing litigation could adversely impact the company’s bottom line, Bayer appears to be rethinking is legal strategy.
For example, the company recently filed a motion in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, seeking to alter the jury selection process for the next Monsanto Roundup trial, which is scheduled to begin in February.
Among other things, Bayer has asked the Court to significantly expand the jury pool and and question potential jurors regarding their exposure to the media coverage surrounding the litigation. In doing so, the company suggested the pool of potential jurors has likely grown more hostile in reaction to the negative publicity that followed the first Roundup cancer verdict.