Bayer, which now officially includes Monsanto, will continue to defend itself from lawsuits alleging that the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup causes cancer, the company’s CEO told financial analysts in a teleconference in Germany Thursday.
Werner Baumann’s comments came nearly two weeks after a jury in state court in California found that Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who alleged that exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, should receive $289.2 million in damages. On Tuesday, Monsanto officially became part of Germany-based Bayer, and the Monsanto name has been retired.
Monsanto called the verdict incorrect and vowed to continue fighting Johnson and his lawyers in court; Baumann said the same.
“We think (the verdict) is inconsistent with the robust science-based conclusions of regulators and health authorities worldwide, and we believe it is wrong,” Baumann said. “We will rigorously defend our position going forward.”
Specifically, Baumann said the company would file post-trial motions with the judge in the case seeking to reverse the jury decision. If that effort fails, the company will appeal.
While expressing sympathy from Johnson and his family, Baumann quickly added, “A verdict by one jury in one case does not change the scientific facts and the conclusions of regulators that glyphosate does not cause cancer.”
He also said that the legal effort of the two companies together will be stronger than it has been with Monsanto alone. “We are confident that our combined legal resources … will have strengthened the company’s ability to defend glyphosate in this litigation,” Baumann said.
He downplayed the loss of market value that occurred after the verdict was released. “Nothing has changed concerning our strategy, attractive synergy potential and longer term growth and market expectations,” he said.
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The verdict was announced near the end of trading on Aug. 10. At the beginning of the day, Bayer’s stock was worth 93.36 euros per share, but by the end of the day, it had fallen to 83.73 euros. It fell further in subsequent days to 77.05/share before rebounding to 83.43 euros by the close of trading on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
“We are very optimistic for the future of the business,” he said.
Baumann said the company is facing about 8,000 lawsuits over glyphosate, with the next one coming in October in state court in St. Louis. Cases have been filed in both state courts and in federal court, with the latter group of cases consolidated in a class-action in California. After hearing from both sides on the scientific merits, the judge in that case ruled that it could proceed, but said it was a “close call.”
Baumann also addressed the status of its dicamba product, Xtendimax with VaporGrip Technology, whose two-year registration expires Nov. 9. He said he expects the Environmental Protection Agency to grant renewal of the registration. EPA has said it plans to make the decision in time for growers to make their seed decisions for next season.
Bayer now owns Monsanto’s seed portfolio, which includes dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton seeds. Dicamba drift has been a problem, however, with thousands of complaints filed with state regulators over damage to crops and other plants.
Baumann, however, said Monsanto had received “73 percent fewer” complaints this year than last, and that the number of acres planted to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton had nearly doubled this year from last year.
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