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Bayer Stands Behind Glyphosate in Cancer Lawsuits

It is open to a settlement if it is final and costs less than a legal challenge.

Bayer is prepared to appeal recent glyphosate-cancer lawsuits that have gone against it. However, it may consider a settlement if the cost falls below the cost of going through a lengthy legal battle.

Liam Condon, president of Bayer Crop Science, briefed members of the agricultural media this week at Bayer’s Future of Farming Dialogue in Monehim, Germany, regarding glyphosate lawsuits.

So far, three California court multimillion-dollar verdicts have gone against Bayer, which are on appeal. The second one, for example, consisted of a California jury awarding the plaintiff $80 million in damages. A federal judge later reduced the award to $25.27 million.

Two Paths

“There are two paths going forward that we are looking at in parallel,” says Condon. “One part is Plan A, going through the court system. Depending on how things play out, there may be multiple appeal levels, and it is possible it may end up with the (U.S.) Supreme Court. We are prepared to go through the entire court system. That could take many, many years.”

Plan B is a settlement. “In these types of cases, it usually makes sense to look at a settlement,” Condon says. “A settlement only makes sense if the cost of settling is lower than the cost of going through the court system and if it is final. There is no point in settling, and then having lots of new litigation in the future. Regardless of which option works, the base assumption is that it (glyphosate) remains with growers.”

German Glyphosate Ban

Bayer is confident that the science supports it in glyphosate trials. “Thankfully, every regulator in the world sees it similarly,” says Condon. “Nothing changes in our support for glyphosate for farmers. It is the best product out there; the safest product out there.”

Not all politicians agree. Germany opted to ban glyphosate by the end of 2023 and limit its use before then. However, the authority to ban chemicals like glyphosate lies with the European Commission (EC), not individual counties.

“No country can make that decision by itself,” says Condon. He says the EC will decide by the end of 2022. “Before that, it (glyphosate) will go through the normal reregistration process, which is a scientific process run by the European Food Safety Authority. It makes a recommendation to the politicians, and the politicians then decide. Very honestly, a lot will depend on where politics are at the end of 2020.”

New Weed-Management Options

Last June, Bayer Crop Science announced it was devoting $5.6 billion to explore other forms of weed control. “It was misinterpreted that we were looking to replace glyphosate with something else,” he says.

That’s not the case, for Bayer wants glyphosate to remain an option for farmers, he says. However, Condon says Bayer believes there are not enough weed-control options for farmers.

“In the last 25 years, there have been no new active ingredients on the (corn and soybeans) herbicide side,” he says. “So, we are investing massive amounts—$5.6 billion over the next few years—to find new options.

Bayer announced last February it had a new corn and soybean herbicide site of action that may debut in the late 2020s. However, Bayer will explore other weed-management options that include:

* Cultural practices like crop rotation

* Cover crops

* Digital application of pesticides that feature more precise application that uses less active ingredient

* Robotics

“I think the importance of diversity (among weed-control methods) is the core lesson that comes out of this,” says Condon.

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