Bayer Might End Private Sales of Monsanto Roundup

Published on February 13, 2020 by Sandy Liebhard

Bayer AG is reportedly considering a plan to end private sales of Roundup herbicide.

According to Reuters, the proposal is part of ongoing settlement talks to resolve thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits that blame the glyphosate-based weed killer for causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

While the plan would stop sales to private parties who use Roundup for home gardening, the herbicide would remain available to farmers and other commercial users.

Monsanto Roundup Cancer Verdicts

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in June of 2018, is currently defending more than 47,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits pending in courts around the United States. However, Ken Feinberg, the prominent attorney leading Roundup settlement negotiations, has indicated that as many as 85,000 claims could be included in any global settlement.

Only three Roundup cancer lawsuits have actually gone to trial, but Bayer has lost every single verdict:

  • August 2018: A San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded $289 million to a former school district groundskeeper with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • March 2019: A jury in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, ordered Bayer to pay $80 million to a home gardener diagnosed with cancer after using Roundup to control poison ivy on his property for more than 25 years.
  • May 2018: A jury in Alameda County Superior Court awarded $2 billion to a California couple, both of whom had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following decades of Roundup exposure.

While the trial judges in each case ultimately reduced the awards to comply with California’s statutory limits on punitive damages, the juries’ findings that glyphosate was a substantial factor in the plaintiffs’ cancer were upheld.

Monsanto Roundup Settlement Speculation Grows

Bayer continues to deny that glyphosate is unsafe and is appealing the verdicts. Since May, however, the company has also been participating in the court-ordered settlement talks led by Feinberg. In early January, he expressed optimism that those discussion would result in a global settlement to resolve as many as 85,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits.

The massive Roundup verdicts have weighed heavily on Bayer’s share price and many prominent investors have questioned the wisdom of the Monsanto acquisition. At one point, Bayer’s CEO indicated the company would consider an “economically” reasonable settlement.

Bayer has agreed to postpone several Monsanto Roundup trials scheduled to get underway in January and February in order to facilitate settlement discussions. Most recently, a federal judge in San Francisco suspended all deadlines in the multidistrict litigation for 28 days, at Feinberg’s request.

Media reports indicate Bayer is considering a Monsanto Roundup settlement in the neighborhood of $10 billion. Some observers have suggested an agreement might be reached before the company announces quarterly earnings on February 27th.

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