Facing an avalanche of lawsuits alleging serious harm from the weed killer Roundup, German pharmaceutical giant Bayer has seen its stock price plunge since last summer’s first bombshell lawsuit win for groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed his cancer was caused by the pesticide.
“The perception is that a huge wave of lawsuits and penalty payments are rolling toward Bayer,” Baader Bank analyst Markus Mayer told Bloomberg last year.
With more than 11,000 lawsuits currently claiming critical health problems from using the glyphosate-based pesticide, Bayer is facing a massive financial loss, which calls into question why the German conglomerate would spend $66 billion to buy Monsanto.
“Bayer: the purchase of Monsanto turns into a nightmare” proclaimed a
headline in France’s leading newspaper Le Monde. The article noted: “The German pharmaceutical group is now worth 52 billion euros, less than the sum spent, 63 billion euros, to afford the inventor of Roundup.”
Scrambling to bolster confidence in the company, Bayer’s chairman Werner Baumann announced: “We have the science on our side and will continue to vigorously defend this important and safe herbicide for modern and sustainable farming.” This was before the second Roundup lawsuit victory which awarded $80 million to Edwin Hardeman.
At a Bayer employee town hall meeting in Berlin last August, Baumann asked whether any of his staff believed Roundup causes cancer. Some raised their hands.
The third Roundup trial with Alva and Alberta Pilliod began on March 28. The Pilliods used Roundup regularly from the mid -1970s until only a few years ago on multiple properties they owned. Evidence obtained by lawyers representing cancer victims suing Monsanto will be presented, showing that Monsanto allocated about $17 million in 2016 to counteract negative information about glyphosate.
The Roundup lawsuits have prompted Monsanto’s defenders to try to prop
up their sinking ship. “The great majority of scientists whose work has found it safe are dismissed as nothing more than dupes of agribusiness firm Monsanto,” declared the right wing magazine The Spectator.
The pro-GMO Genetic Literacy Project site launched at attack on the lawsuits’ “greedy bottom-feeders” lawyers, declaring “they are slime” as “no science-based regulatory authority would ever consider this important agricultural tool an environmental health risk.” And adding: “As insurers are refusing to cover glyphosate, no company will be able to survive this litigious siege of self-righteous greed and the product will effectively be banned.”
Forbes magazine, which often defends GMO agriculture, just posted a dire warning if Roundup is found carcinogenic. “Chemical protection is vital, otherwise, we will have to face the high risk of reduced crops and further food shortage.”
With more court cases likely to rule against Monsanto’s Roundup, analysts are predicting that Bayer will have to pay out billions of dollars in settlements.