Bayer set to pay US$10bn to settle weedkiller lawsuits

German chemical giant Bayer is planning to pay out more than US$10bn to settle around 125,000 cancer-related lawsuits in the USA concerning its Roundup weedkiller product, as well as pending cases, Reuters reported on 24 June.

The company’s announcement of the deal followed a year of negotiations to settle the legal disputes which it inherited following its 2018 takeover of global agrochemical firm Monsanto, Reuters said.

“The Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end,” Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“Unfortunately we have to pay an awful lot of money for a product which is perfectly regulated,” he added.

The company said it would make a payment of between US$8.8bn-$9.6bn to resolve the current Roundup litigation – including an allowance expected to cover unresolved claims – and a further US$1.25bn to address potential future litigation.

In its statement, Bayer had not admitted liability or wrongdoing, Reuters reported.

The settlement mediator Ken Feinberg was reported by Reuters as saying that while nearly 25,000 claims remained unsettled there would be no more trials as cases settled in coming months.

“Bayer wisely decided to settle the litigation rather than roll the dice in American court,” Feinberg said.

The three cases that have gone to trial would continue through the appeals process, Bayer said, and were not covered by the settlement.

Meanwhile, a US federal appeals court had permanently blocked California from requiring a cancer warning on glyphosate-based Roundup, Reuters reported. That ruling was separate from the wider litigation over whether Roundup caused a type of blood cancer.

Bayer denies claims that Roundup or its active ingredient glyphosate causes cancer, saying decades of independent studies have shown the product is safe for human use. The product is used by farmers in combination with the company’s genetically modified seeds.

The company would continue to sell Roundup and would not add a cancer warning label to the product, a Bayer spokesperson was quoted by Reuters as saying.

In a separate legal case, Bayer said it would also settle other inherited lawsuits and had agreed to pay up to US$400M to resolve claims that its dicamba product had damaged soyabean and cotton crops in Arkansas and other states, Northwest Arkansas Newspapers (NWA) reported on 25 June.

Bayer said US$300M would be paid to farmers with another US$100M awarded for legal fees and administrative costs.

The settlement was for crop damage from 2015 to 2020, the company said.

“Claimants will be required to provide proof of damage to crop yields and evidence that it was due to dicamba in order to collect payment,” Bayer was reported by NWA as saying.

“The company expects a contribution from its co-defendant, BASF, towards this settlement.”

Several hundred Arkansas farmers could be eligible for payments, NWA reported lawyers involved in the case as saying.