Bayer AG is back in the news again with its controversial Roundup weed killer product. The pharmaceutical and life sciences giant will pay more than $10 billion to resolve tens of thousands of Roundup cancer lawsuits. It’s important to note, despite all of these lawsuits, Bayer AG has not issued a Roundup recall and is not admitting any guilt or liability in any of the cases they are resolving.
Why is Bayer being sued?
The Roundup cancer lawsuits date back to before Bayer AG purchased Monsanto, the developer of the herbicide. It’s alleged by approximately 125,000 plaintiffs that Roundup caused their cancers, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the heart of these lawsuits is glyphosate, an organophosphorus compound ingredient used in the controversial herbicide. Plaintiffs allege Monsanto ignored cancer warnings and neglected to be transparent with consumers about potential risks.
Bayer AG, despite the number of Roundup cancer cases against them, appears to want to make the lawsuits disappear without issuing a Roundup recall. Settlement terms allow for Roundup to remain on the consumer market without any warning labels on the product.
What are other terms of the settlement?
On June 24, 2020, Bayer AG settled lawsuits they inherited when they bought Monsanto. As a part of the settlement, Bayer AG agreed to pay $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve current lawsuits. It is anticipated plaintiffs will individually receive between $5,000 to $250,000. The remaining $1.25 billion will be held to settle future lawsuits.
The New York Times reported this settlement is “among the largest settlements” ever reached in U.S. litigation. Roughly 75% of the plaintiffs will settle, but there still will be 30,000 unresolved cases remaining. Worthy of mention, in 2019 three major Roundup lawsuits ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor against Bayer AG with juries awarding hundreds of millions of dollars to those injured.
Why hasn’t there been a roundup recall?
Monsanto, and now Bayer AG, have refused to recall Roundup. They’ve largely had the support of several U.S. government agencies that say there is no definitive evidence glyphosate is a carcinogen to humans. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said glyphosate is “probably” carcinogenic. CNN recently reported critics of the herbicide allege Monsanto “had a cozy relationship” with U.S. government regulators with emails surfacing communications had taken place between regulators and the agricultural company.
The mega-settlement includes setting aside funds for an independent expert panel to determine the answers to two critical questions about glyphosate: Is it a contributor to cancer? If so, what exposure level is hazardous?
If the panel determines glyphosate is carcinogenic, Bayer AG cannot argue future cases. However, if the panel concludes it’s not a carcinogen, class action attorneys will “be similarly bound,” reported the New York Times.
In the meantime, tens of thousands of people continue to suffer from cancer.