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Agrochemical company Monsanto and its parent company Bayer CropScience have reached a US$6.9M settlement with the New York attorney general’s office for allegedly making false and misleading claims about the safety of their weedkiller products, AP News reported.

The amount followed payouts of billions of dollars paid by Bayer to settle lawsuits claiming Roundup – one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide – caused cancer, the 15 June report said.

The focus of the lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James was on advertising by Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, claiming Roundup “won’t harm anything but weeds” and did not threaten the health of animal wildlife, AP News wrote.

Those claims breached a previous settlement reached between New York state and Monsanto two decades earlier, in which Monsanto had agreed to stop making unsubstantiated claims about the safety of Roundup products containing glyphosate, the report said.

“Pesticides can cause serious harm to the health of our environment and pose a deadly threat to wildlife, including pollinators and other species vital to agriculture,” James was quoted as saying in a statement.

“It’s essential that pesticide companies – even and especially the most powerful ones – are honest with consumers about the dangers posed by their products so that they can be used responsibly.”

Bayer, which has always said Roundup is safe to use, was quoted as saying it was “pleased” to resolve the litigation, the report said.

The company noted that the state’s legal claim focused on advertising practices, not on health risks to humans, and “made no findings regarding the safety of Roundup products and no scientific conclusion that they have caused harm to the environment, including pollinators or aquatic species,” AP News wrote.

In bringing the claim, the attorney general had relied on outdated scientific studies, Bayer added.

The subject of scrutiny and scientific debate, glyphosate had been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015 by the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, the report said.

Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had ruled in 2020 that the herbicide did not pose a health risk to people, a federal appeals court in California ordered the agency to re-examine the ruling last year, saying it was not supported by enough evidence, AP News wrote.

The millions of dollars due to be paid by Bayer and Monsanto to the New York attorney general’s office would go toward remedying the impacts of environmental toxins or pollution on pollinating insects and aquatic species, the report said.

In addition, the settlement required the companies to immediately remove or discontinue any advertisements representing Roundup products containing glyphosate as harmless, non-toxic or free from risk to wildlife, AP News wrote.