Couple awarded $2bn in Roundup cancer case

Roundup sprayA US jury has ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto pay a combined US$2.05 billion (A$2.94 billion) to a couple who claimed the company’s popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers.

The Oakland jury on Monday delivered Monsanto’s third such loss in California since August.

Alva and Alberta Pilliod said they used Roundup for more than 30 years to landscape their home and other properties. They were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A federal jury in San Francisco previously ordered the weed killer maker to pay a man US$80 million, and a San Francisco jury in August awarded US$289 million to a former greenskeeper, though a judge later reduced it. The trials were the first of an estimated 13,000 lawsuits against Monsanto. St Louis-based Monsanto is owned by the German chemical giant Bayer, which on Monday said it would appeal the verdict.

“The verdict in this trial has no impact on future cases and trials, as each one has its own factual and legal circumstances,” the company said.

The company noted that none of the California verdicts have been considered by an appeals court and that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers the weed killer safe. The EPA reaffirmed its position in April, saying that the active ingredient glyphosate found in the weed killer it posed “no risks of concern” for people exposed to it by any means – on farms, in yards and along roadsides, or as residue left on food crops.

The lawsuits have battered Bayer’s stock since it purchased Monsanto for US$63 billion last year, and Bayer’s top managers are facing shareholders discontent. Chairman Werner Wenning told shareholders at Bayer’s annual general meeting in Bonn last month that company leaders “very much regret” falls in its share price.

At the same time, CEO Werner Baumann insisted that “the acquisition of Monsanto was and remains the right move for Bayer”. Bayer’s stock price closed Monday at US$15.91 a share, down 45 cents or 2.76 per cent per share, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The verdict was announced after the trading session closed. Bayer’s share price has lost half its value since it reached a 52-week high of US$32.80 a share.

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