More than 60 plaintiffs in Canada have filed a class action lawsuit over Monsanto Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide that allegedly causes cancer.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Monsanto Roundup line of herbicides, is the most popular weed killer in the world. The products became part of Bayer AG’s portfolio in June 2018, when the German company acquired U.S.-based Monsanto for $63 billion.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 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.
The Canadian complaint seeks $500 million from Bayer AG and other defendants, making it the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian history. However, attorneys spear-heading the lawsuit say monetary compensation is not the plaintiffs’ only goal, as they intend the litigation to serve as a determent to prevent other companies from engaging in similar conduct.
“If there’s not these lawsuits that force companies like Monsanto to write these big cheques, they have no incentive to change the way they do business,” one of the lawyers told CBC News.
Bayer now faces around 43,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits in the United States that blame glyphosate for causing cancer. Plaintiffs claim, among other things, that Monsanto worked aggressively to discredit the IARC review, ghostwrote favorable glyphosate studies, and unduly influenced regulatory reviews of the herbicide, all in a bid to conceal the association with cancer.
Several Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have already gone to trial in the United States, and so far, every jury has ordered Bayer to pay multi-million verdicts 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. While the company continues to deny any cancer risk, Bayer’s CEO has also indicated a willingness to enter into an “economically reasonable” Roundup settlement.
All remaining Monsanto Roundup trials scheduled for this 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. State-level Monsanto Roundup lawsuits are also expected to get underway in Missouri, Montana and Hawaii, as well as federal courts in Nebraska, Illinois, and North Carolina next year.