The number of lawsuits accusing Monsanto’s weed killers of causing cancer has jumped from 5,200 to 8,000. Shares of Bayer, which recently acquired the agro-chemicals company, have dropped 11 percent since a California jury earlier this month ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who claimed the glyphosate-based Roundup and Ranger Pro caused his terminal cancer.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann told investors during a conference call that when it bought Monsanto, the company “could not foresee the scope of the current lawsuits.” He said the company intends to vigorously fight the lawsuits and plans to ask the judge who oversaw the landmark trial to overturn the verdict.
“In the course of the acquisition, we carried out due diligence as is standard practice when taking over a listed company. In doing so, we of course also considered the legal risks,” he told the German Handelsblatt newspaper.
Plaintiff DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a Bay-area school groundskeeper, sued Monsanto alleging his regular use of the company’s herbicides Roundup and Ranger Pro, which contain the active ingredient glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. On Aug. 10, a California jury awarded him $39.25 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. The jury also found that Monsanto failed to adequately warn the public the risks associated with its products.
Bayer faces its next Roundup trial in late October. Another 400 cases are consolidated into a multidistrict litigation pending in a California federal court.
The the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer lists glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”