Glyphosate Replacement For Roundup Being Tested By Bayer Amid Lawsuits Over Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Side Effects

Bayer has recently announced it is considering bankruptcy as a way to resolve tens of thousands of outstanding Roundup lawsuits, while it works out plans to phase out the use of glyphosate in the widely used weedkiller

Bayer officials say they are in the process of testing a potential replacement for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which has been linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and generated massive legal liabilities for the company.

The glyphosate replacement is being considered by many to be a “silent” Roundup recall, essentially removing the ingredient from store shelves that tens of thousands of plaintiffs allege has caused them to develop cancer. However, at the same time, the company outwardly continues to suggest it believes glyphosate is safe and plans to continue to promote the Roundup brand, even though the actual weed killer in the products has changed.

Over the past eight years, Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary have faced more than 167,000 Roundup lawsuits filed throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations that users were not adequately warned about the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from the weed killer, either when using the product in an agricultural setting or around the home.

The litigation emerged in 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify glyphosate in Roundup as a probable cancer-causing agent. However, even after paying more than $10 billion to resolve thousands of cases, Bayer and Monsanto have continued to face a steady stream of jury trials involving plaintiffs who rejected settlement offers, as well as new claims that continue to be filed as former users develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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According to a report from the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Bayer CEO Bill Anderson indicates that Bayer is testing a new substance on plants, and hope to have the new Roundup formulation on the market by 2028.

The company first made mention of a possible glyphosate replacement in 2021, at which point officials indicated they were looking at several options, including removing glyphosate from products sold to U.S. residential companies, while continuing to sell the glyphosate version to agricultural businesses. However, it is unclear whether that is still the current plan.

Bayer has noted that the vast majority of Roundup lawsuits have been filed by U.S. residential customers. The chemical being considered as a glyphosate replacement has not yet been revealed.

March 2023 Roundup Lawsuits Update

Currently, hundreds of claims are centralized in the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, where several large waves of claims are being prepared for remand to different federal district court for trial. Even more are filed in state courts nationwide, including Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California, where a series of non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits are expected to go before juries in the coming months.

People familiar with the company’s internal workings have indicated Bayer executives have reached out to law firms and advisors on how it could file for Roundup bankruptcy in a way that brings a halt to active litigation in the lawsuits and trials scheduled throughout 2024, as part of a plan to settle 50,000 remaining claims.

The decision comes after the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that the claims are preempted by federal law and should proceed. In addition, Bayer has suffered a string of massive losses in state court trials over the past few months, including the largest Roundup lawsuit verdict to date, $2.2 billion, handed down by a Pennsylvania state court jury in January. That verdict was preceded by a $1.5 billion verdict in November 2023, and after a slew of others plaintiff victories last year.

Given the manufacturers’ failure to consistently defend the safety of their product at trial, combined with the substantial damage awards often provided by juries after considering the evidence, settlements paid to date may only represent a small portion of the total liability the manufacturer faces if it fails to resolve Roundup lawsuits in advance of trial.

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr Creative Commons

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