Glyphosate Trial Suspended Indefinitely

Bayer Offers No Timeline for Potential National Settlement on Cases

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A glyphosate trial was suspended indefinitely on Monday as Bayer continues to work on a potential national settlement. (DTN file photo by Pamela Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Both sides in the Wade v. Bayer glyphosate case have agreed to an indefinite continuance in the trial to allow settlement talks to continue, a spokesperson for Bayer told DTN on Monday, confirming a settlement had not been reached.

The St. Louis, Missouri, case in the 22nd Circuit Court was near completion and about to be turned over to the jury to decide whether glyphosate, and specifically Roundup, led to the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma suffered by the three plaintiffs. This is the first multi-plaintiff case and the fourth case to reach the courtroom around the carcinogenic potential of the widely used herbicide.

Bayer lost all three previous cases and was ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars in damages.

"The parties have reached an agreement to continue the Wade case in Missouri Circuit Court for St. Louis City," the Bayer spokesperson told DTN on Monday.

"This indefinite continuance is intended to provide room for the parties to continue the mediation process in good faith under the auspices of Ken Feinberg and avoid the distractions that can arise from trials. While Bayer is constructively engaged in the mediation process, there is no comprehensive agreement at this time. There also is no certainty or timetable for a comprehensive resolution."

Ken Feinberg, a veteran mediator in several major lawsuits including the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was appointed in May 2019 by a federal judge in the United States District Court in San Francisco overseeing hundreds of claims that the weed killer Roundup causes cancer. Feinberg was instructed to meet with lawyers for Bayer and plaintiffs in the lawsuits, the judge said at the time.

Bayer acquired Roundup brands as part of its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto. Bayer has continued to maintain that glyphosate is safe, regularly pointing out that the Environmental Protection Agency and many other country regulatory agencies support glyphosate's continued use.

Estimates of the number of potential plaintiffs in the United States are from 50,000 to 75,000. Media reports have put a possible overall settlement cost in the range of $8 billion to $12 billion.

Just last week, EPA finalized its interim registration decision on glyphosate, once again stating the herbicide poses no risk to human health and can be used safely with certain drift mitigation requirements.

The agency first proposed this interim decision in April of 2019 and accepted public comments until the following September. Now it has analyzed and responded to those comments and finalized the decision.

However, glyphosate is not clear of all regulatory scrutiny just yet. The herbicide's overarching registration review, which started in 2009, will likely push on into 2021, according to EPA's website.

Agricultural crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate have greatly expanded use of the chemistry since 1996. Glyphosate also is used in forestry, urban, lawn and garden applications. Bayer also had glyphosate in its portfolio before acquiring Monsanto.

That broad use has drawn worldwide attention to the herbicide and its safety.

Though glyphosate was developed by Monsanto, it is off-patent and sold by many agriculture companies as one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It came to market in 1974 under Monsanto's Roundup label for control of perennial and annual weeds in non-crop and industrial areas. In 2018, California regulators failed in an attempt to label glyphosate products as "known to cause cancer."

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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