(Oct. 22, 2019) Bayer – which bought Monsanto last year for $66 billion – now faces a ban in its home country on Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide, Roundup. The government of Germany announced last month that it will begin to phase out allowed uses of glyphosate, the only listed active ingredient in Roundup.
Related: Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit | Attorney
Under Germany’s new plan, all glyphosate use will be banned by the end of 2023. That is when the product’s European license expires. Europe accounts for just ten percent of Roundup sales, so the ban is not likely to significantly affect Bayer’s stock market prices, which have suffered significantly since three outsized verdicts were delivered in the last year against Monsanto. Three juries have unanimously ruled that Roundup has a propensity to cause those exposed to it non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other types of leukemia. The German ban nevertheless represents at least a significant symbolic blow against Bayer. In addition to three huge losses in three Roundup trials so far, Bayer faces more than 18,400 Roundup lawsuits in the U.S. alone.
Related: Austria, Germany’s neighbor, has completely banned Roundup.
Bayer’s Response and some of its Defenders
In defense of glyphosate, the head of Bayer Crop Sciences, Liam Condon, issued this press statement: “We disagree with the German government’s decision to ban glyphosate by the end of 2023. The ruling ignores decades of scientific judgment from independent regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe when used properly.”
That response stays directly on point with Monsanto lawyers’ defense of Roundup and glyphosate in all three trials which have resulted not only in straight-up losses, but in large punitive damages against the company.
As with the EPA in the U.S., Bayer Crop Sciences has an ally in VCI, the European chemical association, which functions in somewhat similar fashion to the U.S. EPA. The organization’s managing director, Utz Tillmann, called German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government’s decision “premature,” because it came before a ruling by the European Union. The EU does not allow its members to make unilateral decisions; hence the British people’s decision to vote in favor of Brexit, a plan to leave the EU and re-establish their country’s sovereign independence. Ms. Tillman says that Germany’s decision to ban glyphosate represents “a massive loss of certainty for planning. She added that “Business must be able to count on reliable conditions.”
A disinterested observer might fairly ask – and it is difficult to be disinterested when glyphosate has been found virtually everywhere – is “planning” more important than the health of people exposed to glyphosate? Is “business” more important than people’s health?
Most pointedly, Germany’s proposed ban on glyphosate is yet one more sign of increasing opposition to the toxic chemical among Europeans. The E.U. may respond by deciding not to renew its license when the body votes on the issue in three more years. Austria’s total ban and Germany’s phase-out of glyphosate join a growing chorus against the chemical. Several local city governments have taken action to stop the use of glyphosate. (In the U.S., New York City and other municipalities are considering glyphosate bans.) In Berlin at a press conference, Germany’s Minister of the Environment, Svenja Schulze, said, “I don’t expect that there will be a majority anywhere in the E.U. for glyphosate anywhere in the E.U.”
Germany’s plan, like New York City’s proposed ban, would begin by prohibiting the use of glyphosate in public parks and gardens, and impose restrictions on agricultural use.
The stock market notes that Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto may prove to be the worst business decision in recent history. Bayer today is worth much less than the price it paid for Monsanto. Bayer shares have fallen in value by 30 percent since the takeover just over a year ago. Rumors last month said Bayer was considering an $8 billion settlement, but those rumors proved false. Some market analysts have calculated Bayer’s glyphosate liability to be as high as $27.7 billion, an enormous sum considering that Bayer paid $66 billion for Monsanto last year.