A number of glyphosate cancer cases that were scheduled to go to trial in the next several weeks have been postponed as Bayer AG attempts to reach a settlement with U.S. plaintiffs, Reuters reported this week. Assisting in the process is prominent mediation attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who is best known as the architect of the 911 Victims Compensation Fund.
In a statement, a Bayer spokesperson also said, “With the change in the trial schedule and no trial dates set through the rest of the year, the appeals of the three completed trials will be a significant focus of the litigation in the months ahead.” The statement refers to three cases heard in California over the past year in which juries determined that Bayer and its corporate predecessor, Monsanto, had failed in its obligation to warn consumers about the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.
Despite three major jury verdicts against the company, nearly 20,000 pending lawsuits and a number of restrictions and bans on glyphosate use around the world, Bayer continues to defend glyphosate as “safe when used as directed.” Bayer has allies at the EPA, which has ruled that it will not approve cancer warnings on glyphosate-containing products.
At the same time, farmers are continuing to use the product and indicate they will not be abandoning glyphosate anytime soon. Most of them cite lower operation costs as the reason they continue to spray their fields with Roundup. This is a silver lining for Bayer. The majority of lawsuits over glyphosate have been filed by groundskeepers and home gardeners, who account for only a small percentage of the glyphosate market.
Bayer and glyphosate supporters say the science on glyphosate has been inconclusive. However, earlier this year, a University of Washington analysis of glyphosate studies found that exposure to glyphosate can increase the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by over 40 percent. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer issued its own conclusions in 2015, determining that glyphosate was a “probable human carcinogen.” The Environmental Working Group has accused the EPA of ignoring other scientific research showing links between glyphosate and cancer.
There is also evidence to show that Monsanto had “inside help” at the EPA in hiding the alleged cancer risks of glyphosate. In response to these charges, Bayer announced in June of 2019 that it would be “raising the bar in transparency, sustainability and engagement,” promising to release the results of all crop-safety studies and clearly identify which are self-funded.