Roundup was once the most popular weedkiller in the world, widely used since the 1970s by homeowners, farmers, and corporations as a broad-spectrum herbicide that could be sprayed on anything and everything.
But starting in 2023, it will be pulled from store shelves and replaced with a new version for residential use that no longer contains glyphosate, the active ingredient at the center of multi-billion-dollar lawsuits against Roundup’s new owner, German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer AG, which bought Monsanto in 2018.
Consumer and health groups have long warned about the safety of chemicals and pesticides used in agriculture. But alarm about a cancer link with Roundup erupted in 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, reviewed public studies and concluded that glyphosate can “probably” cause cancer.
Lawsuits against its maker Monsanto exploded, with more than 100,000 claims that the use of Roundup caused plaintiffs to develop cancer such as lymphoma, and caused birth defects, and other health problems.
Glyphosate is a PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl, which are highly toxic industrial compounds. Individuals can come into contact with glyphosate by touching, inhaling, or swallowing the chemical, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Glyphosate exposure can lead to a number of side effects, including eye, skin, nose, or throat irritation; increased saliva; burns in the mouth or throat; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea.
Long-term side effects can include a number of different kinds of cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, bone cancer, and more. More than a dozen countries as well as many states and localities have banned the use of glyphosate, and others have severely restricted it, though it is still widely used for pest and weed control.
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In 2018, Bayer AG gambled and bought Monsanto for $63 billion in one of the worst corporate acquisitions in recent memory. Bayer wanted access to Monsanto’s crop protection products like Roundup and their expertise in seeds and digital farming applications.
What Bayer got instead was huge losses in court, with juries awarding billions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs who said they developed cancer and other ailments from using Roundup. Bayer proposed settling the remaining cases for $10 billion, but a judge rejected the deal.
Monsanto was known for a toxic culture, says historian and author Bartow J. Elmore, who writes of the troubling story of the company’s past, present, and future in his book “Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future.”
“I found documents, like one related to PCBs, where an executive sitting in 1969 in a confidential meeting, deciding what to do about this toxic compound, literally wrote in his own handwriting, ‘One of the alternatives is that we could sell the hell out of those PCBs as long as we possibly can,’ even knowing how toxic it was,” Elmore said in an interview with KCRW radio.
Internal Monsanto documents also showed the company’s scientists had engaged in secretly writing scientific papers that the company then used to help convince regulators of product safety.
Bayer now pledges to do business differently than Monsanto. The company says it will release all crop-safety studies, including negative ones, and identify third-party funding so there is no confusing independent research with industry-financed work.
But Bayer continues to insist that glyphosate is safe. Currently, about 80% of Roundup lawsuits have been settled by Bayer for about $11 billion. The company has also filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court decision that upheld damages to a Roundup customer who developed cancer.
“We continue to stand strongly behind the safety of Roundup, a position supported by assessments of expert regulators worldwide as well as the overwhelming weight of four decades of extensive science,” Bayer said in December.
How We Help Victims of Pesticide Exposure
Were you diagnosed with cancer after using Monsanto’s Roundup? Don’t fight alone. Call us now. With a national presence and a wealth of experience prosecuting pesticide exposure cases, Waters Kraus & Paul has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for failing to keep workers safe. If you have suffered catastrophic injury or cancer caused by Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer or other harmful chemicals, we can help.