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Bayer Plans to Appeal $289 Million California Glyphosate Verdict

“We believe it is wrong,” says Bayer’s CEO.

Bayer officials say Bayer will vigorously defend the glyphosate lawsuits that accompany its purchase of Monsanto.

Officials with Bayer, which began integrating Monsanto this week, say it will appeal a lawsuit that found Monsanto liable for $289 million on August 10. San Francisco Superior Court jurors ruled in favor of Dewayne Johnson, a 42-year-old school groundskeeper suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Jurors awarded the money due to the plaintiff’s position that he had developed the cancer due to prolonged exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based products.

Werner Baumann, chief executive officer of Bayer AG, says Bayer is sympathetic to his plight, but the German firm’s position is that use of glyphosate-related products did not cause his cancer. Baumann and other Bayer officials made comments during a conference call with investment analysts this week.

“We believe it is wrong,” he says. “This (Bayer’s position on glyphosate) is supported by 800 studies and reviews done over many decades. They conclude glyphosate can be used safely and does not cause cancer. Farmers and growers have been using glyphosate safely and effectively for more than 40 years.

“This litigation started with trial attorneys running advertisements for lawsuits after the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classified glyphosate as a 'probable carcinogen' (in 2015) based on a limited review of limited data,” says Bauman. It ran counter particularly to a 2017 U.S. Agricultural Health Study that followed 50,000 workers for more than 20 years. That study found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer, Baumann says. Bayer is seeking reversal of the lawsuit in California appellate courts.

What’s Up Next

Eight thousand more lawsuits are on tap related to glyphosate in state and federal court, Baumann says. This is up from the previous number given of 5,200.

“These numbers may rise or fall over time, but our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs’ cases,” says Baumann. Next on tap is a non-Hodgkin lymphoma glyphosate trial in St. Louis in late October, he says.

So far, the pending lawsuits and the California verdict have not negatively impacted glyphosate sales, says Liam Condon, head of Bayer Crop Science.

“It is really important to note that nothing has changed in the regulatory status of the product,” he says. “There is high demand, and it has been that way for many decades. It is an invaluable tool for growers.”

Dicamba

Bayer also picked up the former Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend dicamba-tolerant system with its purchase. When it comes to weed control, dicamba has worked well in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System, says Condon. He cites there is 97% satisfaction with weed control among farmers who applied Xtendimax with Vapor Grip on Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans.

“The feedback we have received, and Werner alluded to it with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans and XtendFlex cotton, is that customers tell us they have the cleanest fields they have had in years,” says Condon. “In the current season, Monsanto (now Bayer) has received 73% fewer (off-target) inquiries, and dicamba-tolerant soybeans and Bollgard (II Xtendflex) cotton have nearly doubled acres (in 2017). We, of course, are taking these inquires on a case-by-case basis.”

He expects the EPA to soon decide on dicamba labels for the dicamba-tolerant system as farmers make decisions for the 2019 growing season.  

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