Bayer invests in science to avoid future lawsuits
In an effort to stave off further claims, Bayer AG is making a risky bet that an independent scientific review will ultimately show that its widely used pesticide Roundup does not cause cancer..
On Wednesday, the company agreed to pay $ 10.9 billion to settle about 75% of Roundup’s 125,000 claims that the herbicide caused them a form of blood cancer..
But Bayer had to find a separate solution to reduce the risk of future claims without taking the product off the shelves. The company decided to rely on the scientific evidence, which so far has overwhelmingly supported its claim that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is safe for agricultural use..
Regulatory authorities around the world, including the US EPA and the European Chemicals Agency, have determined that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
But the World Health Organization Cancer Research Group in 2015 determined that the herbicide is «probable carcinogen». Since 2018, three American commissions that have listened to scientific evidence from both sides during testing, consistently said Roundup causes cancer.
«Bayer is taking a huge risk by betting on scientific research and it can be assumed that the scientists ‘conclusions underlying the plaintiffs’ claims are incorrect.», – said David Knoll, Professor of Law at Rutgers University.
While many of the details of this proposal have yet to be published by Bayer or approved by a federal judge, the plan calls for the creation of an independent panel of scientific experts that will likely be selected and agreed upon by both parties..
The company will pay $ 1.25 billion to support the group’s research. This amount does not include any payments to settle future lawsuits.
The scientific review process is expected to take at least four years and the panel’s conclusions will be binding on Bayer and anyone who has used Roundup but did not develop cancer.
If the group finds that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, these users will not be able to sue.
However, if the panel determines that glyphosate causes cancer, Bayer could face a spate of new lawsuits, with potential damages to be determined at a later stage. Bayer said on Wednesday that lawyers for the leading plaintiffs agreed to his plans, but Reuters was unable to promptly contact those lawyers for comment..
Plaintiffs’ lawyers in the past have argued that Bayer manipulated scientific research and deceived the scientific community.
Company executives on the phone with reporters and analysts on Wednesday repeatedly said that scientists were on their side..
«We are confident that the scientific panel will review the scientific evidence and conclude that glyphosate is safe», – said the head of the Bayer trial Bill Dodero.
Legal experts say scientific teams have been set up in previous mass lawsuits, but this is generally not part of the settlement process. Bayer’s offer is «creative but risky» and the company is likely to face procedural problems in court, believes Adam Zimmerman, Loyola Law School Professor.
Many details remain unclear, experts say, including how people who have not yet fallen ill may relinquish their rights to a future lawsuit over this proposal..
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