Bayer AG agrees to settle almost 100,000 lawsuits for nearly $11 billion against allegations that its product, Roundup, causes cancer. However, the company doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing by continuing to sell the herbicide.
Several years ago, claims began to surface that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, caused certain types of cancer. Studies have been done which supported those claims while the US Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations maintained that it was safe when used as intended. A branch of the World Health Organization labeled glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, leading some countries to ban the herbicide for agricultural use.
The US and other countries continue to allow Roundup to be sold and glyphosate to be used in herbicides that kill weeds on lawns and in crops. At the same time, more allegations have cropped up against the product, saying it can cause cancer with repeated and prolonged exposure.
Around 125,000 cases have been filed against Bayer AG for causing cancer to agricultural workers, landscapers and others who used the product regularly. The settlement takes care of the majority of those, including most of the cases that were ready for court.
Bayer’s settlement is the largest of its kind to be settled out of court, overtaking the $5 billion settlement made by Merck for the painkiller Vioxx. However, Bayer doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing on its part, and it will continue to sell Roundup. A spokesperson for the manufacturer says there won’t be a warning label on the herbicide that it could cause cancer. The settlement doesn’t prevent other cases from being filed against Bayer in the future.
To prevent more claims, Bayer has developed a proposal to have an independent study done on its product. If a federal judge agrees to this proposal, it could take up to four years to be completed, but Bayer has agreed to be bound by the results. If the study shows that glyphosate is safe, Bayer could be free from the shadow that has been cast over it. If the study proves that the ingredient does cause cancer, it could open Bayer up to even more allegations.
The details are still being worked out for the proposal, which would likely include a team of scientific experts who are approved by both sides. Bayer is also planning to provide some funding to the study. Some critics expect the proposal to be challenged in court even if its approved by the judge. No proposals have been included in settlement agreements in the past.
The suggested proposal is a risky move on the part of Bayer, but it appears the company is confident in their product’s safety. If the study fails to line up with their expectations, they may end up paying out even more than the $11 billion for the current settlement. This could be good news for those victims who have been diagnosed with cancer after using the product for work or for their own personal needs.