Bayer shares fell more than 10% on Monday after a jury in California ordered Monsanto, a subsidiary of the German company, to pay US $ 289 million for not warning about the risks of cancer posed by its main herbicide.
The case against Monsanto, which Bayer bought this year for US $ 63 billion, is the first of more than 5,000 similar claims on herbicides with glyphosate from the company, including its Roundup brand, throughout the United States.
Monsanto said Friday that it would appeal the verdict, which is the latest episode in a long debate over whether Roundup exposure can cause cancer.
“The jury’s verdict contradicts the weight of scientific evidence, decades of real-world experience and the findings of regulators around the world that confirm that glyphosate is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Bayer said in a statement, referring to the type of cancer of the plaintiff.
The case of school gardener Dewayne Johnson, presented in 2016, was accelerated for the trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that he allegedly caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, another herbicide with glyphosate Monsanto
After closing the acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer is only waiting for some final sales of assets related to the competition before incorporating it into its own organization. It did not negotiate any payment from Monsanto’s shareholders for litigation related to Roundup.
Bayer shares fell 11% to 83.04 euros, with the worst performing Stoxx Europe 600 index.
Genetically modified (GM) crops that resist glyphosate are a major source of cash for Monsanto.
Discovered by the Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970, glyphosate herbicides, free of patent, are already sold by the global crop protection industry despite the controversy over their safety.
The American court ruling surprised many Bayer investors, as no strong evidence of a causal relationship to cancer had been presented so far.
The oncological agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate in 2015 as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, but the US Environmental Protection Agency finalized in September 2017 an evaluation that concluded that the product was not carcinogenic to humans.