Bayer shares slip 10% after jury order on Monsantos Roundup cancer trial

Lloyd Doyle
August 15, 2018

Monsanto's German owners insisted on Saturday that the weed killer Roundup was "safe", rejecting a California jury's decision to order the chemical giant to pay almost USD290 million for failing to warn a dying groundskeeper that the product might cause cancer.

"We are sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and his family", Partridge said.

Monsanto vice president Scott Partridge told the Press Association: "Roundup has been safe for four decades and will continue to be safe".

The company immediately said it would appeal against the decision and tried to reassure consumers - including those using Roundup elsewhere - that its weedkiller was safe.

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that he alleges was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide.

Johnson read the label and even contacted the company after developing a rash but was never warned it could cause cancer, Wisner said.

Johnson's attorneys sought and won $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million of the $373 million they wanted in punitive damages.

Aware of the reputation of Monsanto, which specializes in genetically modified seeds and crop protection technologies, Bayer said it planned to ditch the Monsanto name once the takeover was complete.

If the litigation generates large verdicts against Monsanto, it could have a material impact on Bayer's bottom line, said Chris Perrella, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

On Monday, Greenpeace urged the Australian government to start restricting the sale of Roundup - which is widely available in supermarkets and hardware stores - after a Californian court found it caused the cancer of a terminally ill man. "We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others".

Monsanto scientists knew of the cancer risk posed by Roundup as far back as the 1970s, but failed to inform the public and instead engaged in a "deliberate effort to distort the truth" as the weed killer generated hefty returns, Johnson's lawyer, Brent Wisner, told the jury in closing arguments Tuesday.

Founded in 1901 in St Louis, Missouri, Monsanto began producing agrochemicals in the 1940s. It has been repeatedly linked to cancer by groups including the cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization (though Monsanto and various other groups dispute the findings).

The plaintiff argued successfully that Monsanto had "fought science" over the course of several years in a bid to falsify and obscure evidence of the damaging effects which Roundup has on human health.

A statement by the United Kingdom government said its "priority is the protection of people and the environment", adding that decisions on the use of pesticides "should be based on a careful scientific assessment of the risks".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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