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Environment/Science Last Updated: Jun 25, 2020 - 6:43:03 PM

Bayer Pays Out $15.9b to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims
By ABC News
Jun 25, 2020 - 4:01:58 PM

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Containers of Roundup on a shelf

Bayer will pay billions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed over its weedkiller, Roundup.(AP: Haven Daley)




Global pharmaceutical giant Bayer will spend up to $US10.9 billion ($15.87b) to settle thousands of lawsuits alleging the company's weedkiller, Roundup, causes cancer.



Key points:

  • Bayer will settle almost 100,000 lawsuits brought largely by claimants who say the weedkiller Roundup causes cancer
  • The company will also settle other claims relating to environmental damage in the US
  • A lawyer behind an Australian class action says the settlement is unlikely to have a direct impact on the case here



The Germany-based company, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto two years ago, said the settlement would cover about 95,000 cases.

Many of the claims were filed by homeowners and groundskeepers, but the company still faces thousands more claims from people who have not agreed to settle.

The overall sum includes $US1.25b ($1.82b) to settle potential future litigation, which the company has proposed would be covered by a class agreement.

"First and foremost, the Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end," chief executive Werner Baumann said.




"It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multi-year litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business."

Bayer will also pay $US800 million ($1.16b) to settle claims involving the highly carcinogenic substance polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been found in US waterways and which Monsanto used to make.

Another $US400m ($582m) will go towards settling cases relating to damage caused to crops after the weedkiller Dicamba drifted onto nearby farms, killing plants not resistant to the herbicide.


Crop being sprayed with glyphosate
As much as 8.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate has been used globally since it was introduced in 1974.(ABC News: Neale Maude)



Only in the US: Lawyer

Kenneth Feinberg, the US court-appointed mediator working to settle current and future claims, told the ABC it was "quite a challenging day".

"Despite the pandemic, despite the fact the courts are closed, we managed and secured a very exciting and challenging settlement for 95,000 current individuals claiming cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), due to Roundup exposure," he said.

"At the same time Bayer filed a class action in San Francisco that would resolve all future claims of individuals who use Roundup but have not yet manifested NHL, and created a special science panel which, over the next four years, will study Roundup and render a decision on whether or not the herbicide really does cause NHL."

Mr Feinberg said the settlement was unlikely to influence other actions.

"I would be dubious about any presumptions that this is a precedent for settling in other locations around the world," he said.

"I think the Roundup litigation in the US was so problematic to the company, to Bayer, that it decided it was in its business interests to settle here.

"In my experience over the last 40 years, companies that settle in the United States, they settle because the alternative is American trials, American juries - years of protracted, uncertain litigation.


Glyphosate, sold as Roundup.
Glyphosate, often sold as Roundup, is one of Australia's most common weedkillers.(Rose Grant: ABC Rural)


'No direct impact on Australian case'

The settlement will be of interest to claimants behind an Australian class action, which alleges Monsanto knew or should have known that Roundup was inherently unsafe and that the company failed to provide suitable directions for use.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn has launched a class action against Monsanto on behalf of people diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Australia.

Following the US decision, its head of class actions, Andrew Watson, said he hoped Bayer would take a similar approach to the litigation in Australia.

"It is obviously very welcome news for those US victims who have developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma through their exposure to Roundup," Mr Watson said.

"But as with most settlements, it's a settlement made without admission of liability and so it has no direct impact on our Australian case."


YOUTUBEFour Corners: The Monsanto Papers



Roundup 'perfectly safe': Littleproud

Bayer has consistently denied allegations of the link between Roundup and cancer.

Earlier this year the US Environmental Protection Agency found glyphosate was "unlikely to be a human carcinogen".




The EPA said it "did not identify any human health risks from exposure".

Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018 for $US63b ($91.7b), said the settlement did not apply to three cases which it lost in US courts and said it would continue to appeal those verdicts.

US courts ruled against Monsanto in large part because they did not properly warn people to wear protective clothing when they applied the weedkiller.

This morning Agriculture Minister David Littleproud assured Australians that glyphosate that was a safe product.

"The standards and the labelling in the United States is different to Australia," Mr Littleproud said.

"The APVMA as the regulator makes sure the directions and the labelling on glyphosate products is quite clear.




"Our regulations, and our regulatory reform, is as robust as anyone in the world.

"I am confident the APVMA has provided the right directions, I am confident if Australians use it as per the label it is perfectly safe."

[Some colour fonts and bolding added.].


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