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Jury Rules Against Bayer in California Glyphosate and Cancer Trial

The trial now moves to the liability and damage phase.

Bayer has lost another glyphosate lawsuit. Jurors in federal glyphosate multidistrict litigation in San Francisco found that use of glyphosate caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman. The jury will now decide liability and damages in a second trial phase.

Bayer is now 0 for 2 in glyphosate trials. Last August, San Francisco Superior Court jurors ruled in favor of Dewayne Johnson, a 42-year-old school groundskeeper suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the verdict, jurors found Monsanto liable for $289 million. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is on appeal.

Bayer released the following statement on the Hardeman verdict. 

"We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer. We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and that the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. Regardless of the outcome, however, the decision in phase one of this trial has no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances. We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.

Roundup products and their active ingredient, glyphosate, have been used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide and are a valuable tool to help farmers deliver crops to markets and practice sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion, and carbon emissions. Regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides as safe when used as directed. There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to EPA, European, and other regulators in connection with the registration process, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed.

Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” its most favorable rating. As Health Canada noted in a very recent statement, “no pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed.”

What Others Say 

Not all disagree with the verdict, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a group critical of glyphosate use.

“Today’s verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people,” said Ken Cook, EWG president in an EWG news release. “As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up.

“The decision by Bayer to purchase Monsanto, a company with a long history of environmental malfeasance, could go down as one of the worst business decisions ever made,” added Cook in the news release. “The day of reckoning for Bayer and its cancer-causing weedkiller is getting closer.”

What Now?

Bayer, which closed on the purchase of Monsanto last summer, faces more than 11,000 U.S. lawsuits alleging that glyphosate causes cancer. Share prices in today’s early Frankfurt trading after the verdict was announced are down 12.46% at 60.90 euros  ($69.12) at 11:09 a.m. GMT. 

Last August on an investment community teleconference, Bayer executives said insurance is in place for circumstances such as this. “What is clear is that the legacy Monsanto company had insurance in place, standard product litigation insurance,” says Liam Condon, Bayer Crop Science chief executive officer.

Turning the tables will require a comprehensive educational strategy, say Bayer executives.

“It (glyphosate) is unique because it has become a political molecule,” said Bill Reeves, Bayer regulatory policy and scientific affairs manager, at last September’s Future of Farming Dialogue meeting at its Monheim, Germany, headquarters. “It is a symbol of Monsanto, GMOs, and modern agriculture.”

“This is about stopping GMOs from coming to Europe (for use on farms) through a backdoor route,” said Guy Smith, who farms in the United Kingdom and is a deputy director of the National Farmers Union, at the Future of Farming Dialogue meeting.

“The problem is that if glyphosate is banned, what is next?” added Smith. “There is a reason glyphosate has been used (successfully) for over four decades. The farmers will continue to use products they think work on their farms.”

There are steps farmers can take to help improve their image with the public, too, said Smith. “For example, routine use of Roundup just before harvest (such as for use as a desiccant) is a bad practice,” Smith says. “Every time you use a pesticide, you increase the risk of getting (weed) resistance. So, it is in everyone’s interest to minimize use and steward them (pesticides) professionally.”

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