As part of its plan to thwart future litigation, Bayer will stop selling glyphosate-based herbicides for residential use in the US beginning in 2023, the company said during a July 29 call with investors. The move “is exclusively geared at managing litigation risk and not because of any safety concerns,” Bayer CEO Werner Baumann stressed during the call. Glyphosate-based herbicides will still be available for professional and agricultural uses, Baumann said.
The company plans to reformulate its glyphosate-based residential herbicides, sold under the Roundup brand, but isn’t saying what active ingredient it will use.
Bayer has been plagued by more than 125,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs who claim the use of glyphosate-based herbicides contributed to their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The company resolved about 75% of the cases with a nearly $10 billion settlement last year, but it still faces about 30,000 cases and possibly additional ones in the future. Most claims are associated with residential use of the herbicide on lawns and gardens.
Bayer plans to file a petition with the US Supreme Court in August seeking review of rulings in favor of Edwin Hardeman, one of three plaintiffs who went to trial against Bayer outside the settlement and won a multi-million-dollar verdict. If the high court reviews the case and rules in favor of Bayer, it “would effectively end potential future litigation,” Baumann noted. On the call, he announced that Bayer will set aside $4.5 billion, on top of $2 billion already in place, to address future lawsuits in case the court denies the request or rules against the company.
Environmental and public health groups welcome Bayer’s decision to stop selling glyphosate-based herbicides to consumers in the US, but they are pressuring retailers to take action immediately rather than wait until 2023. Such groups are also urging the Environmental Protection Agency to ban all uses of the chemical, including on food crops. “As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, says in a statement.
Bayer argues that farmers rely on glyphosate to produce crops using approaches that minimize soil tillage, reducing both soil erosion and carbon emissions.