Chemical Lobbyists Paid to Say Roundup Was Safe

Bayer Subsidiary Monsanto Paid Chemical Lobbyists to Misrepresent Roundup's Safety
flickr/avrorra

New court documents in the ongoing Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma litigation indicate Bayer subsidiary Monsanto paid chemical lobbyists to claim the popular herbicide weed killer was safe despite significant scientific evidence that Roundup causes cancer.

Email correspondence between Monsanto officials and the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) reflect how the industry group campaigned for contributions from Monsanto. Despite Monsanto’s misgivings about the group’s reputation, company officials used these contributions to influence the ACSH to refute the growing body of evidence from the scientific community that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, likely causes cancer.

In one February 2015 email between Monsanto higher-ups, one voices concerns over ACSH’s reputation but still resolves to make contributions to ensure support from the group.

“(T)hey have PLENTY of warts – but: You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH,” the email states. “They are working with us to respond if needed to IARC.”

The email clearly shows signs of Monsanto coordinating to influence the scientific community to reject pending findings from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). One month later in March 2015, the IARC announced that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen.

Another email details the chemical lobbyists’ complaints to Monsanto for not receiving payment for the group’s efforts to discredit the WHO’s findings. In response, Monsanto officials indicated that they would continue giving ACSH money.

Chemical Lobbyists Contributions Background

These emails are coming to light in the face of around 15,000 Roundup product liability lawsuits pending throughout the nation. The lawsuits allege that Roundup exposure significantly increases cancer risks, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Bayer and its Monsanto unit have suffered a series of high-profile trial losses in the first three cases to go before juries in the litigation. Consequently, shareholders and the court overseeing the federal litigation are pressuring the companies to reach a settlement agreement to expedite the litigation’s resolution and avoid staggering liability in thousands of individual trials.

Roundup Cancer Trials

The first Roundup cancer trial was at the state level in California this past summer. The jury returned with a $289 million verdict. However, the court later reduced this judgement to $78 million after post-trial motions.

The second trial was in federal court earlier this year. Despite the bifurcated format heavily favoring Monsanto due to its separation of causation from misrepresentation, the trial ended in an $80 million verdict.

Finally, the third trial took place in California state court and ended with a landmark $2 billion judgement for a husband and wife who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup.

Earlier this week, Seeking Alpha published an analysis of the Roundup litigation. The analyst concluded that Bayer is “fighting for its life” due to the Roundup troubles it acquired along with its Monsanto acquisition. Bayer may have to shell out as much as $20 billion in Roundup fines and settlements. Also, there is no telling how far the company’s stocks may plummet in the coming months if the litigation remains unresolved.

Judge Vince Chhabria is presiding over the entirety of the federal Roundup litigation in the Northern District of California. If Bayer fails to resolve the litigation, the next multidistrict litigation (MDL) bellwether trial will begin in February 2020 over a woman who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after extensive exposure to Roundup from using it in her herb garden for years.