Bayer AG lost its third straight Monsanto Roundup trial yesterday, when a jury in California’s Alameda County Superior Court ordered the German company to pay more than $2 billion in the latest case involving glyphosate and its alleged link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod, an elderly couple from California, regularly used Monsanto Roundup while landscaping their properties for over 30 years. Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, while Alberta received the same diagnosis in 2015. According to their lawsuit, the odds that both would develop the disease are around 1 in 20,000.
Yesterday afternoon, the jury hearing their case agreed that Monsanto Roundup was a “substantial factor” in the Pilliod’s cancer, and awarded the couple $2.55 billion. The unprecedented verdict includes $55 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.
“The cloud hanging over Bayer will only grow bigger and darker, as more juries hear how Monsanto manipulated its own research, colluded with regulators and intimidated scientists to keep secret the cancer risks from glyphosate,” Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement issued shortly after the verdict was announced.
Monsanto Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world.
But in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen based on an independent review that linked occupational exposure to cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Bayer, which recently acquired Monsanto, vehemently denies any link to cancer. However, the Pilliod, along with thousands of other Roundup lawsuit plaintiffs, claim Monsanto manipulated research and leveraged cozy relationships with regulatory agencies that subsequently contradicted the IARC findings
Those regulators include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which only last month reiterated its conclusion that glyphosate isn’t carcinogenic. Just weeks earlier, however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said it couldn’t rule out a cancer link and called for more research.
The most recent study on glyphosate and cancer was published in March, and suggested occupational exposure could increase the risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%.
Yesterday’s massive verdict is bad news for Bayer, which had already been assessed $159 million in damages after two previous cases. More than 13,000 similar claims are pending in courts throughout the United States, with the next Monsanto Roundup trial scheduled for August in Missouri state court.
The first two glyphosate cancer verdicts triggered big drops in Bayer’s share price, and the third was no exception, with the stock tumbling 2.76% on the New York Stock Exchange by the close of trading yesterday.
The fallout from the Monsanto acquisition has obviously displeased many Bayer investors, and inspired more than half to enter a vote of no-confidence during the company’s annual shareholder meeting last month.