Chemicals giant hit by US weed killer ruling

Shares in German chemicals giant Bayer have fallen sharply after a US jury found that its Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in causing a man’s cancer.

The ruling in San Francisco came in the first phase of a trial that lawyers say could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

A previous case in August saw another man awarded $289m – later reduced to $78m – after a jury determined Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That case is being appealed.

The latest finding relates to a 70-year-old California man, Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015.

Shares in Bayer fell 13% in morning trading.

Roundup maker Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer for $63bn last year, says studies have shown that the weed killer’s active ingredient glyphosate is safe.

Bayer said in a statement that it was disappointed with the latest verdict and that it was confident that the next phase of the trial would show Monsanto’s conduct had been appropriate and that the company should not be liable for Mr Hardeman’s cancer.

US judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits, has deemed Mr Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials” – or test cases – which will help lawyers decided whether to fight similar cases or settle them.

The judge has split Mr Hardeman’s case into two phases – the first to determine whether Roundup was a significant factor in his cancer and the second to determine whether the company is liable and if so for how much.

Monsanto developed glyphosate in the 1970s and it is now used in more than 160 countries and widely used in the US.

It came under increased scrutiny when the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation, classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015.

Monsanto has attacked the agency’s opinion as an outlier compared to other studies.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says it is safe when used in accordance with label directions.

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