Bayer’s Desperate Bid to Shield Itself from Avalanche of Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

The weed killer Roundup, manufactured by global chemical giant Bayer, has been at the center of a legal storm. With over 170,000 lawsuits alleging that Roundup’s key ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer, Bayer is facing an unprecedented crisis. In a last-ditch effort to protect itself, the company has launched a multi-pronged strategy to create legal shields in key states where its operations are concentrated.

Bayer Lobbying to Block Roundup Cancer Claims

Bayer has aggressively lobbied state legislatures in Missouri, Iowa, and Idaho – home to its North America crop science division, a Roundup manufacturing facility, and the mines from which its key ingredient is derived, respectively. The company’s goal is to push through legislation that could block a central legal argument underpinning the flood of lawsuits against it. Though the bills passed at least one chamber in Iowa and Missouri, they ultimately failed in all three states this year. Undeterred, Bayer plans to renew its push during next year’s legislative sessions and may expand efforts elsewhere.

The Looming Threat of Roundup’s Withdrawal

Bayer’s desperation is palpable, as the company warns that the legal battle it faces “is not sustainable.” Some lawmakers have raised concerns that if the lawsuits persist, Bayer could pull Roundup from the U.S. market, forcing farmers to turn to alternatives from China. Jess Christiansen, Bayer’s head of crop science and sustainability communications, acknowledged that the company has made no decisions about Roundup’s future, but cautioned that “we’ll eventually have to do something different if we can’t get some consistency and some path forward around the litigation industry.”

The Alleged Link Between Roundup and Cancer

At the heart of the legal attack against Bayer are claims that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, causes a deadly form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans when used as directed, a growing body of research paints a different picture.

Several studies over the past 20-plus years have found a potential link between Roundup exposure and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including a 2003 study that reported a 60% increased risk among Midwestern farmworkers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Bayer’s Aggressive PR Campaign

In a bid to sway public opinion, Bayer has bankrolled a new coalition of agriculture groups that has launched a multi-media campaign backing protective legislation for pesticide producers. The campaign has been particularly prominent in Missouri, where most of the roughly 57,000 still-active legal claims against the company are pending.

However, legal experts caution that such protective legislation is unlikely to affect existing lawsuits, and at best, could only limit future claims. This has done little to allay the concerns of lawmakers, some of whom have expressed reservations about limiting people’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

Roundup Product Liability Multidistrict Litigation

As the number of Roundup-related lawsuits continues to grow, the cases have been centralized in the Northern District of California as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). This consolidation is intended to streamline the legal process and facilitate the resolution of these claims.

However, the sheer scale of the MDL, with dozens of lawsuits involved, presents a formidable challenge for both the plaintiffs and Bayer. The outcome of this high-stakes legal battle will not only determine the financial fate of the company but also have far-reaching implications for the future of Roundup and the broader agrochemical industry. 

Bayer’s recent efforts to shield itself from liability have not gone unchallenged. Plaintiffs and their legal representatives have been pushing for greater transparency, demanding that the company disclose information about its internal research and communications regarding the potential cancer risks of Roundup.

Roundup Lawsuit Information

Roundup lawsuits are alleging a link between the glyphosate-based weed killer and an increased risk of cancer. Learn more by clicking on the button.
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