Bayer AG CEO Werner Baumann said the company might consider settling lawsuits alleging Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing weed killers cause cancer if court costs rise, but emphasized that Bayer’s priority was defending itself against the claims.
Bayer acquired Monsanto earlier this year for $63 billion. The company faces more than 8,700 lawsuits alleging its herbicides that contain the active ingredient glyphosate like Roundup and Ranger Pro cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In August, a California jury awarded $289 million to a school groundskeeper who sued the company after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” Baumann told reporters, adding, “We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves in this litigation.”
Since the staggering jury verdict (which was recently reduced to $78 million) in the landmark Roundup lawsuit, Bayer shares dropped 25 percent. Bayer has held firm on its stance that its glyphosate-containing herbicides do not cause cancer and claims studies show that the chemical is safe.
However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s specialized cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), listed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and pointed to evidence involving people exposed to glyphosate, mostly from agricultural means.
Some countries have banned use of the herbicide due to health concerns, which not only includes cancers like non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but also developmental and reproductive problems including abnormal fetal development, low birth weights, and miscarriages. Other health risks associated with glyphosate exposure include liver and kidney damage.