Global pharmaceutical giant Bayer will spend up to $US10.9 billion ($A15.87 billion) to settle thousands of lawsuits alleging the company’s weedkiller, Roundup, causes cancer.
The Germany-based company, which bought Roundup maker Monsanto two years ago, said the settlement would cover about 95,000 cases.
Many of the claims were filed by homeowners and groundskeepers, but the company still faces thousands more claims from people who have not agreed to settle.
The overall sum includes $US1.25 billion ($1.82 billion) to settle potential future litigation, which the company has proposed would be covered by a class agreement.
“First and foremost, the Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end,” chief executive Werner Baumann said.
“It resolves most current claims and puts in place a clear mechanism to manage risks of potential future litigation.
“It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multiyear litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business.”
Settlement comes amid Australian action
Bayer will also pay $US800 million ($1.16 billion) to settle claims involving the highly carcinogenic substance polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been found in US waterways and which Monsanto used to make.
Another $US400 million ($582 million) will go towards settling cases relating to damage caused to crops after the weedkiller Dicamba drifted onto nearby farms, killing plants not resistant to the herbicide.
Litigants have blamed Roundup and its active ingredient, the chemical glyphosate, for cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and argued that Monsanto had tried to influence scientists and regulators to bury cancer evidence for decades.
Bayer has consistently denied the allegations, and earlier this year the US Environmental Protection Agency found glyphosate was “unlikely to be a human carcinogen”.
The EPA said it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure”.
Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018 for $US63 billion ($91.7 billion), said the settlement did not apply to three cases which it lost in US courts and said it would continue to appeal those verdicts.
US courts ruled against Monsanto in large part because it did not properly warn people to wear protective clothing when they applied the weedkiller.
The settlement will be of interest to claimants behind an Australian class action, which alleges Monsanto knew or should have known that Roundup was inherently unsafe and that the company failed to provide suitable directions for use.