The agrochemical and pharmaceutical group Bayer has suffered a setback in the US legal dispute over alleged cancer risks from the weed killer glyphosate. The US government advised the Supreme Court – the highest court in the country – on Tuesday (local time) against accepting a landmark case.

The procedure could have a signal effect for many other US lawsuits. Legal risks worth billions depend on this for the Leverkusen-based Dax group. The stock was trading at a five percent discount on Wednesday morning.

Specifically, it is about the review of a judgment in favor of the plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, who blames glyphosate-containing products from the US manufacturer Monsanto, which Bayer has taken over, for his cancer. In 2019, after a court case, he was ultimately awarded a good $25 million in damages. Bayer hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the decision.

However, it is not yet clear whether the US Supreme Court will deal with the case. In December, the judges announced that they would seek the US government’s opinion on what initially appeared to be a sign of interest and therefore positive for Bayer. But now the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice is available – it takes the side of the plaintiff. The government did not agree with Bayer’s argument that federal law prevents claims for damages in individual US states.

“We continue to believe that there is good legal reason for the Supreme Court to review the Hardeman case and reverse the verdict,” Bayer said in a statement. This was also confirmed by numerous statements that had been submitted to the court. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly stated that glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and are not carcinogenic.

“We’ve always known the law was on our side, and now the government agrees,” plaintiff Hardeman’s attorney Jennifer Moore told US media. “It’s a very good day for cancer victims in this country who are trying to hold abusers like Monsanto accountable.” Hardeman was diagnosed with lymph node cancer in 2015. He accuses Monsanto and Bayer of having concealed the alleged health risks of glyphosate.

The group rejects the accusations and argues with studies that are intended to prove that glyphosate-containing products are harmless when used as directed. The many lawsuits that Bayer is confronted with in the USA are based in particular on an assessment by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. In 2015, she classified Monsanto’s weed killer as “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

In the event that the Supreme Court does not want to deal with the glyphosate case or ultimately decides against Bayer, the company had made provisions of $ 4.5 billion in the summer. The money would then be used to set up a program to deal with the claims of new plaintiffs over the next 15 years.

Bayer took on the problems surrounding the glyphosate weed killer Roundup in 2018 with the more than $60 billion purchase of Monsanto.


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