Bayer takes more legal hits over weedkiller products linked to illnesses

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Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, has had a another US court setback over its Roundup weed killer, while in France a decade-long legal battle ended when a court ruled that Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller had made a man sick and that the product’s labelling had been inadequate.

Bayer said it would comply with a US federal judge’s order to enter mediation with a plaintiff who claims the company failed to warn against an alleged cancer risk from its Roundup weedkiller, reports Reuters Health.

Bayer has seen billions wiped off its market value since August, when a first US jury found Bayer liable because Monsanto, acquired by Bayer for $63bn last year, had not warned of the alleged risk from Roundup, which is based on active ingredient glyphosate. It suffered a similar courtroom defeat last month and more than 10,000 cases are pending.

The report quotes US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria, who presided over the first two cases in federal court, as saying in a filing that Bayer and another plaintiff, Elaine Stevick, were ordered to start confidential mediation. “The parties should propose a mediator in their case management statement; if they cannot agree, the Court will appoint someone,” the judge ordered, cancelling a previously scheduled 20 May trial date.

Bayer said it would comply with the order in good faith, while believing strongly in the “extensive body of reliable science supporting the safety of Roundup”.

“As this litigation is still in the early stages – with only two verdicts and no cases that have run their course through appeal – we will also remain focused on defending the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides in court,” it is quoted in the report as saying.

 

A French court has, meanwhile, ruled that Monsanto was liable for the sickness of a farmer who inhaled one of its weedkillers, reports Reuters Health. In the latest stage of a decade-long legal tussle, the Appeals Court in Lyon found in favour of farmer Paul Francois’ claim that Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller had made him sick and that the product’s labelling had been inadequate.

Francois, 55, says he suffered neurological problems, including memory loss, fainting and headaches, after accidentally inhaling Lasso in 2004 while working on his farm. “Mr Francois justifiably concludes that the product, due to its inadequate labelling that did not respect applicable regulations, did not offer the level of safety he could legitimately expect,” the court said in its ruling.

The report says, however, that the latest verdict did not determine compensation for the farmer, which will now be considered by another court in Lyon. Francois is seeking about €1m ($1.1m) in damages.

Bayer said it was considering its legal options, including an appeal before France’s highest court. The German chemicals group added that crop-protection products “do not pose a risk for human health if they are used according to the terms of use set out in their regulatory approval”.

The report says Francois had won rulings against Monsanto in 2012 and 2015 before France’s top court overturned the decisions and ordered the new hearing in Lyon. “We are all happy to have won but it came at a heavy price,” Francois said. “It’s a big sigh of relief. It’s been 12 years of fighting, 12 years during which I had to put my whole life on hold.”

The report says Lasso was banned in France in 2007 after the product had been withdrawn in some other countries. It used a different active substance to glyphosate, the chemical contained in Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup.

Reuters Health report
Reuters Health report


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