Roundup™’s Future in Doubt

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June 13, 2021
Edward Smith

Weedkiller’s Future U.S. Residential Availability Uncertain

Roundup™ is a commercial and residential weedkiller that has been available in the United States since the 1970s. For most of that time, it has been the most popular herbicide in use for residential customers. In the late 2010s, thousands of claims and lawsuits have been filed alleging the product resulted in cancers, including non-Hodgkins lymphomas. The first major verdict resulting from these claims was in 2018 in the case of Johnson v. Monsanto, in which a California jury awarded $289 million to the plaintiff on the basis that Monsanto failed to adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks of the glyphosate chemical that is the primary active ingredient in Roundup™. The Bayer pharmaceutical corporation, which had just acquired Monsanto, promptly lost about half its stock value. Combined with continuing claims and lawsuits, these events have left Roundup™’s future in doubt in the American market.

The Dangers that Leave Roundup™’s Future in Doubt

After Monsanto developed and patented the glyphosate chemical that became the ingredient in their trademarked Roundup™ product, the company exclusively used the substance until the patent expired. That expiration in the United States was in 2000, although it expired earlier in some other countries. Since then, other companies have marketed herbicidal products using glyphosates, as well.

For many years, glyphosate was not specifically listed as a carcinogen, although it was recognized as being acutely toxic if directly ingested, as well as being a skin irritant. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reviewed glyphosate’s potential as a carcinogen more than once. In 1986, it was initially listed as a “possible carcinogen,” however, this listing was changed to “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity” due to a lack of statistical data.

This uncertainty may be due primarily to two factors. First, the types of cancers that have later been linked to the product are ones that typically take many years to develop; second, neither the EPA nor Monsanto was particularly aggressive about trying to test Roundup™ in particular and glyphosates in general for their potential carcinogenicity dangers.  Discovery in one of the court cases against Monsanto revealed an internal email in which a company toxicologist put this quite simply, “you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen . . . we have not done the necessary testing. . . .”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment found the substance was “known to cause cancer” in 2017.

Recent Legal Developments that Put Roundup™’s Future in Doubt

The verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto was only the first major event against the product. Although that 2018 award was later reduced to $21 million after appeals, it was clear that Bayer/Monsanto had potentially huge legal exposure because of its product.

In 2019, Costco became the first major retailer to drop glyphosate herbicides from its shelves, and other retailers have followed.

State court lawsuits on behalf of both individual plaintiffs and class action groups have resulted in awards including an $80 million award to another California plaintiff in which the trial judge — in making a finding in support of punitive damages — concluded that Monsanto was more interested in slowing down safety studies and influencing public opinion “than it was with ensuring its product is safe.”

In 2016, the lawsuits in federal courts were consolidated into a multi-district litigation matter, in which a proposed class settlement came up for hearing in May 2021. This specific proposed settlement was for any future claims alleging cancers resulting from Roundup™ use. Bayer’s proposal would have put forward $2 billion in settlement funds to compensate future claimants in return for a limitation of the company’s exposure to that figure.

Although Bayer had previously put forward $9.6 billion to settle most of the existing 125,000 claims, this latest settlement proposal would have greatly limited the company’s liability for future claims. Arguments against the proposed settlement of future claims noted that the non-Hodgkins lymphomas associated with Roundup™ can take as long as ten to fifteen years to appear, so a huge number of future cancers and claims have not yet even become apparent.

The proposed settlement of future claims was rejected, and litigation continues. Bayer says it will re-evaluate the availability of Roundup™ for the U.S. residential market.

Watch this video from 60 Minutes Australia about Roundup™:

Roundup™ Cancer Liability Lawyer

My name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Roundup™ cancer lawyer in Sacramento. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, please call our injury lawyers at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to receive our free, friendly, and compassionate advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

You can learn more about us by reading our clients review and some of our past verdicts and settlements at:

Photo Attribution: Image by sandid from Pixabay

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