PCBs, glyphosate, dicamba. 11 billion from Bayer to settle class action lawsuits

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6/24/20 Bayer USA says it has approved an allocation of $10.9 billion to settle the bulk of class actions and lawsuits for damages caused by PCBs, glyphosate, dicamba. So as to carry on business as usual, continuing the sale of the deadly agrotoxics and GMOs designed to resist them. All is well, an understatement.

Monsanto – Bayer class action and pending litigation

Glyphosate is still the most widely sold and used herbicide in agriculture worldwide. Its classification as a ‘potential carcinogen – by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC) in March 2015 – was not enough to result in the suspension of approvals for its use.

125 thousand compensation lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. in the meantime, mostly by professional users and their families who have contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers as a result of exposure to glyphosate. In the course of some proceedings, the so-called
Monsanto papers
and various testimonies showing that the U.S. giant had for decades already had precise knowledge of the serious risks of this poison to human health.

Multimillion-dollar punitive damages sentences for cancers caused by glyphosate have rained down on Monsanto-Bayer since 2018, have been upheld on appeal, and have followed up in several courts, with punitive damages reaching US$2 billion.

Dicamba, the candidate successor to glyphosate, has in turn provoked compensation actions only for damage caused to crops adjacent to fields where it was sprayed. Its use has been associated with the prevalence of leukemia and other cancers by the National Institute of Health (US), as of May 2020. And its authorization in the U.S. was declared unlawful in June 2020 by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Tabula rasa

The risks associated with judicial affirmation of Monsanto-Bayer’s responsibilities and the carcinogenic nature of its poisons result in onerous budget provisions. With predictable repercussions on stock prices, which have posted a loss of close to 40 percent over the past year. Bayer’s Board of Directors then decided unanimously, with the green light from the Supervisory Board, to act on the Special Litigation Committee‘s proposal.

A clean sl ate of existing litigation-at least 75 percent of pending cases and 95 percent of announced cases-could be achieved through a comprehensive and all-inclusive settlement with the injured parties. Under the dual condition of:

disavow any responsibility of Monsanto and Bayer (which acquired the US giant in 2016, for US$ 63 billion),

avoid adding warnings, on the labels of glyphosate-based herbicides, about its carcinogenicity.

The agreements are being entrusted to a mediator who is negotiating with 25 law firms. A sum ranging from $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion will be used to settle pending cases, between 2020 and 2021. Including those involving water pollution by PCBs, a carcinogenic and mutagenic contaminant produced by Monsanto until 1977 (with a total outlay estimated at US$ 820 million). Another 1.25 billion will be used to settle the disputes to come will follow. Resources will be drawn from Bayer’s working cash flow and disinvestment in the animal welfare sector.

Are you all right?

Bayer, according to the defined program, intends to continue selling the poisons under consideration. And carry on, together with the other three Big 4 Team Corporation, the global monopoly on beneficial pesticides and seeds. Monopoly also set to grow thanks to the new GMOs (PBT, Plant Breeding Techniques) that the European Commission not surprisingly included in the Farm to Fork Strategy. (2)

The big numbers are worth reassuring shareholders in the Board’s rosy outlook. But uncertainties remain, given that to date some 30,000 lawsuits-including those of convictions that have gone down in history-seem far from peaceful solutions. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, moreover, can have a 20-year latency. The time to Court thus moves at least two decades ahead of the cessation of glyphosate use.

A final risk to the Germanic Corporation lies in the justice of the old continent. The sleeping giant could wake up thanks in part to the efforts of citizens, all of us. To shed light on the scientific fraud put in place to obtain the various glyphosate permit renewals, end the use of this as well as other weapons of mass destruction. And affirm, finally, the Polluter Pays Principle.

#Égalité!

Dario Dongo

Notes
(1) Bayer announces agreements to resolve major legacy Monsanto litigation. Bayer U.S., press release, 6/24/20, http://www.glyphosatelitigationfacts.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/U.S.-News-Release-FINAL.pdf
(2) Curiously enough, the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy-which stands in the opposite direction to the new GMOs-was unveiled on the same day. V. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/speciale-strategia-ue-2030-per-la-biodiversità-il-piano-annunciato-a-bruxelles

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.