US$2b hit for weedkiller firm after revelations

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 15 May 2019

A jury in California ordered Bayer-owned Monsanto to pay more than US$2 billion (HK$15.5 billion) to a couple who sued on grounds the weedkiller Roundup caused their cancers.

The award was the latest in a series of court defeats for Monsanto over Roundup. The company insists the glyphosate-based product is not linked to cancer.

The couple's legal team described the damages award as "historic," saying it in fact totaled over US$2 billion after adding in slightly more than US$55 million in compensatory damages.

"The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe," said the couple's counsel, Brent Wisner.

"Instead of investing in sound science they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda."

The setback sent Bayer's shares tumbling in Frankfurt. The German chemicals giant has seen close to 45 percent of its market capitalization evaporate since it bought Monsanto in June 2018 for US$63 billion.

Bayer will be appealing against the verdict, which it argues is at odds with a recent US Environmental Protection Agency review of glyphosate-based weedkillers.

The verdict in Oakland, California, was the third courtroom defeat for Bayer in cases that claim chemicals in Roundup cause cancer.

Glyphosate developer Monsanto was convicted in the United States in 2018 and 2019 of not taking necessary steps to warn of potential risks of Roundup, which two California juries found caused cancer in two users.

"Unlike the first two Monsanto trials," said Michael Miller, co-lead trial counsel with Wisner, "we were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto's manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup's severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind."

More than 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller have been launched in the United States.

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