Jury awards couple $2B in Roundup weedkiller cancer case

The trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 lawsuits against Monsanto

Bayer shares fell by as much as 5 percent on Tuesday after a California couple were awarded more than $2 billion in the largest USA jury penalty over allegations its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.

Bayer's stock price hit an nearly seven-year low Tuesday, in the wake of a third US jury verdict that found its Roundup weedkiller to be a cause of people's cancer.

The company said both Alva and Alberta Pilliod had long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to Reuters.

The Pilliods, who are in their mid-70s, had been longtime users of Roundup by the time Alva Pilliod was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011.

In March 2019, a federal jury in California found that Monsanto's Roundup weed killer caused a 70-year old man's cancer. Thousands of similar cases are pending at the federal or state level.

"The consensus among leading health regulators worldwide is that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic", Bayer said.

An Alameda County Superior Court jury ruled against Monsanto in another lawsuit claiming that its popular herbicide, Roundup, causes cancer.

In a statement, Bayer said it was disappointed with the verdict and would appeal. "It's also pretty clear that Monsanto has known about this for over 45 years", said Brent Wisner, co-lead counsel, from the Los Angeles law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, & Goldman. The verdict comes about a month and a half after a jury awarded $80 million to another person, Edwin Hardeman, who has cancer.

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A 2017 Reuters investigation found that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer had dismissed and edited out "non-carcinogenic" findings that were at odds with its final conclusion that the chemical probably causes cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency's official position is that "there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen", with the EPA reiterating this stance at the end of April. They were also awarded $55 million in compensatory damages.

Monday's stunning verdict came as Bayer admitted that its subsidiary Monsanto kept lists of high-profile people - for or against pesticides - in France and likely other European countries.

Bayer has seen its stock price plummet 40 percent since it purchased Monsanto a year ago for $63 billion.

Chairman Werner Wenning told shareholders at Bayer's annual general meeting in Bonn last month that company leaders "very much regret" falls in its share price.

Bayer's day began on Tuesday with a share-price drop to €53.66 ($60.29)-a level it has not seen since June 2012, and which represents an nearly 46% fall in value since the closure of the Bayer-Monsanto merger in June past year.

"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", he said in a statement.

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