Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have surged in recent months, with Bayer AG reporting that 43,700 cases alleging glyphosate caused cancer are now pending in courts around the United States.
That means the already-massive litigation has doubled since July, when the number of filings stood at 18,400.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Monsanto Roundup line of herbicides, is the most popular weed killer in the world. However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, after an independent review tied occupational exposure to an increased risk of cancer – especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Monsanto denied any link to cancer, a stance it shared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, Roundup lawsuit plaintiffs claim that the EPA was influenced by a close relationship with Monsanto and over-relied on positive glyphosate studies funded, and even ghostwritten, by the company.
The matter is hardly resolved. In fact, earlier this year, a study published by researchers at the University of Washington suggested glyphosate exposure increased the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by as much as 41%. And in April, 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.
Bayer AG acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in June 2018, inheriting the massive Roundup cancer litigation in the process. The first three Monsanto Roundup trials have since concluded, with all three juries awarding multi-million-dollar judgments to plaintiffs.
Bayer is appealing the Roundup verdicts, but is also participating in court-ordered mediation headed by Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney behind the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and other high-profile legal settlements. The company’s CEO has also indicated a willingness to enter into an “economically reasonable” Roundup settlement.
All Monsanto Roundup trials scheduled for the remaining year have been postponed to allow the parties to focus on mediation. At least a dozen trials are slated for 2020, with the first to get underway in February in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. Monsanto Roundup lawsuits are also scheduled to go trial in state courts in Missouri, Montana and Hawaii, as well as federal courts in Nebraska, Illinois, and North Carolina.
Bayer has lost around 30% of its value since acquiring Monsanto, mostly due to the fallout from Monsanto Roundup lawsuits. According to Bloomberg News, analyst estimate the cost of resolving all claims could range from $2.5 billion to $20 billion. Some investors have suggested any Monsanto Roundup settlement less than $10 billion would be worth it.