Bayer Apologizes For Creating List Of Who To Influence To Protect Roundup From Regulations
Amid rising concerns worldwide about the risk of cancer from Roundup exposure, Bayer now admits that its recently-acquired Monsanto unit previously compiled a list of about 200 French lawmakers, journalists and other influential individuals, which some say was part of a wide-reaching effort to manipulate regulators and prevent any warnings for the widely used weedkiller.
On May 12, Bayer issued a press release confirming recent reports that the list exists, and indicating that the company has now launched an internal investigation to determine why Monsanto made the list.
While Bayer officials say they have not yet determined whether Monsanto broke the law in any way regarding the list, the company acknowledges that it has an air of impropriety. The confirmation that the list exists further fuels questions about what steps Monsanto has taken in recent years to hide the potential link between Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which has now resulted in nearly 15,000 lawsuits being filed throughout the U.S.
The issue drew worldwide headlines on Friday, when the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported that Monsanto compiled the file with the intention of influencing those on it, so that it could alter opinions and shore up the company’s pesticide interests, including Roundup. The list was leaked to Le Monde by some inside FleishmanHillard, a U.S. public relations firm.
Bayer admits the list existed and apologized. While the company is not admitting that the list represented any legal wrongdoing, it has asked an external law firm to investigate the matter and what Monsanto intended to do with information.
“Following an initial review, we understand that this initiative has raised concerns and criticism,” Bayer’s statement reads. “This is not the way Bayer seeks dialogue with society and stakeholders. We apologize for this behavior.”
The list was compiled before Bayer acquired Monsanto last summer, inheriting a number of legal woes; including Roundup lawsuits brought by farmers, landscapers, groundskeepers and other consumers diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lympthoma following exposure to the glyphosate-based weedkiller.
Three cases have gone to trial so far, with the first two ending in massive damage awards, and a third jury currently deliberating to determine what compensation should be awarded as a result of Monsanto’s failure to warn about the cancer risk with Roundup.
U.S. Consumer Watchdog Group Seeks Docs On EPA Glyphosate Approval
Just days before the Le Monde article and Bayer’s apology, the Center for Biological Diversity announced in a press release that it was asking the Trump Administration to turn over public records linked to the recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reaffirm the safety of glyphosate, for use on U.S. crops.
The request came after court documents (PDF) were released, which included reports from an outside firm to Monsanto on the political climate within the EPA and the Trump administration, suggesting that Roundup use would be protected regardless of what the science found.
“We have Monsanto’s back on pesticides regulation,” an unidentified Trump Administration official reportedly told the firm. “We are prepared to go toe-to-toe on any disputes they may have with, for example, the EU. Monsanto need not fear any additional regulation from this administration.”
In fact, the document confirms what many outside of the Administration have suspected, that the political arm of the EPA is not heeding the advice of its scientists and professional staff.
“Within the EPA we see a total split between the political leadership and the professionals. Climate science is the most obvious area, but environmental pollution, transportation, and toxicology are others,” a partner at a D.C. law firm with extensive contacts with the EPA is quoted as saying in the documents. “In essence, the political leadership favors deregulation and dismisses the expert risk analysis.”
The lawyer is also quoted as saying the administration is “instinctively dismissive” of risk analysis by international bodies, including the United Nations, the European Union, and non-governmental organizations like the Pesticide Action Network.”
The Center for Biological Diversity’s request covers communications between the EPA’s pesticide office, the pesticide industry, and political appointments in regard to the agency’s recent reapproval of glyphosate.
In the coming months, Bayer is expected to continue to face the fallout from Monsanto’s prior actions, with many suggesting that the German company greatly underestimated the Roundup legal risks when it acquired Monsanto for $63 billion last year. Already, the company has been hit with verdicts of $78 million in California state court last August, and $80 million in the federal court system earlier this year, with a steady stream of additional Roundup claims set to go before juries this year.
Unless Roundup settlements or another resolution for the litigation is reached, the German news magazine Spiegel speculated last year that a string of massive losses in future trials may “spell the end of a company that is an intrinsic part of Germany and its business history,” and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
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