The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Justice Department have thrown their support behind German chemical and pharmaceuticals firm Bayer AG, asking a federal appeals court to reverse a verdict finding Bayer’s weedkiller responsible for a California man’s cancer.
Edwin Hardeman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015 after using Roundup, a glyphosate-based pesticide produced by Monsanto, which Bayer acquired for US$63bn last year.
A federal jury ordered Bayer to pay Hardeman US$89M in damages in March, which was reduced to US$25M in July.
In a ‘friend of the court’ brief filed on 20 December, the EPA and Justice Department said that glyphosate was not a carcinogen and a warning on the label was therefore not required under Californian state law.
“The EPA approved the label for … Roundup through a registration process that did not require a cancer warning. Mr Hardeman nevertheless sought damages under California common law, alleging that Monsanto had failed to adequately warn consumers of cancer risks posed by the active ingredient in Roundup.”
Bayer argued any warning label would be in conflict with guidance from a federal agency, Reuters said.
The EPA and Justice Department agreed, saying in their filing that “it is unlawful for manufacturers and sellers to make claims on their labels that differ from what EPA approves”.
On 16 December, Bayer asked a US federal appeal court to throw out the US$25M verdict against Hardeman, saying the trial judge had committed “a host of errors” by allowing jurors to hear unreliable expert testimony.
Bayer is currently facing 42,700 lawsuits in the USA claiming Roundup causes cancer and its stock has lost about 23% in value since the first Roundup verdict for plaintiffs in August 2018, Reuters said.
Farmers spray glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in US agriculture, on fields of soyabeans and other crops that are genetically engineered to resist it, the news agency said. Roundup was also used by consumers on lawns, golf courses and gardens.
In September, Germany agreed to ban the use of glyphosate by the end of 2023 to preserve insects crucial for ecosystems and pollinating food crops.
The ban would initially prohibit the use of the chemical in domestic gardens and allotments, and on the edge of farmers’ fields, DW reported.
The move came after Austria banned all use of the weedkiller, making it the first EU country to do so.