Bayer, the new owner of the agrochemical company Monsanto, has admitted that the number of U.S. lawsuits against the Roundup maker has risen to around 8,000 after the company was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper for not warning him about the potential cancer risks of using the weedkiller.
With glyphosate, the chemical contained in Roundup, having already been cited by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as being “probably carcinogenic to humans,” Bayer’s $63 billion purchase of Monsanto has simultaneously bought it a major problem. In extremis, were all 8,000 of these lawsuits to similarly result in the payment of $289 million in damages to each of their claimants, the bill to Bayer would be in excess of $2.3 trillion dollars – thus easily resulting in the company being bankrupted. Ultimately, however, with potential payouts of $289 million per claimant, the number of successful lawsuits needed to bankrupt the company would be only a fraction of the 8,000 filed so far.
From the perspective of its shareholders, at best Bayer now faces years of legal wrangling. At worst, the company’s future has been thrown into doubt. But for health-conscious citizens across the globe, either of these outcomes will doubtless be viewed as a cause for celebration and a potential step towards a safer food supply and a cleaner, healthier environment.