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Following reports of skin irritation and other reactions, Bayer has decided not to move forward with a new Monsanto pesticide, which was expected to become a big seller for protection of crops from roundworms. The decision increases investor questions over Bayer’s decision to acquire Monsanto last year, along with substantial liability in thousands of Roundup lawsuits being pursued over health problems associated with the widely used weedkiller.
In a recent statement, Bayer officials indicate the new pesticide marketed as “NemaStrike Technology” will not be put out for broad sales, following reports of people suffering skin irritation after handling the product or seeds treated with it.
The pesticide was supposed to be part of Monsanto’s Acceleron seed line, and the statement was issued there as part of what appears as a temporary pop-up.
“After a careful assessment of the applicator and grower experience in 2019, Bayer has made the decision that NemaStrike™ Technology will not be offered broadly in 2020 for corn, cotton or soybeans,” the statement reads. “While the vast majority of applicators and grower customers had a positive experience with NemaStrike Technology this year, a limited number of individuals experienced skin irritations after handling Acceleron NemaStrike ST or seed treated with the product.”
The statement indicates the company will provide additional information, and alternative products, for the 2020 planting season in coming weeks.
NemaStrike was originally approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2017. However, Monsanto delayed sale of the products following reports of rashes. At the time, Monsanto claimed such side effects could be avoided if label instructions were followed, however, this is the second time it has put the pesticide on hold due to safety concerns.
Monsanto claims nematode infestations can reduce corn, cotton and soybean crop yields by 10% and that NemaStrike seeds could be a blockbuster product. However, this comes at time when Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer, face increased scrutiny due to Roundup cancer fears.
Roundup Health Concerns
Bayer has faced substantial upheaval among investors after the controversial decision to acquire Monsanto last year, especially following a series of massive damage awards returned in early cases brought against Monsanto for failing to warn about the risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma following Roundup exposure.
There are currently more than 18,400 non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits filed against the companies throughout the United States, involving injuries suffered by farmers, landscapers, groundskeepers and other users of the controversial glyphosate-based weedkiller. Plaintiffs allege that Monsanto has known about the cancer risk associated with their product for years, yet continued to market the weedkiller as a safe product.
In three early “bellwether” claims that have gone to trial to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to similar evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation, Bayer has been hit with billions in liability, including punitive damage awards designed to punish the company for Monsanto’s reckless disregard for the health and safety of consumers.
Since the company has not been able to successfully defend the safety of the product at trial, Bayer faces increasing pressure to negotiate Roundup settlements, which may become one of the largest mass tort settlements in modern history, adding to the costs associated with the controversial decision to acquire Monsanto.
In the federal court system, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has ordered the parties to participate in a mediation process with prominent attorney Ken Feinberg, who has guided settlements in several high-profile litigation in recent years, including funds to pay claims related to the BP oil spill, Volkswagen emissions scandal, General Motors ignition switch recall, September 11th Victim Compensation fund and others.