WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court has rejected Bayer’s appeal to shut down thousands of lawsuits claiming that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.
Bayer says the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) says federal law pre-empts state regulations for different product labels, but the high court said it didn’t agree.
This will not be the final word in the company’s attempts to shield itself from lawsuits alleging its weedkiller causes cancer. Another Bayer appeal was pending before the Supreme Court and the company suggested a case being heard by an appeals court in Atlanta could be the third.
“There are likely to be future cases, including Roundup cases, that present the U.S. Supreme Court with preemption questions like Hardeman,” said the global pharmaceutical and agriculture giant, referring to its attempt to overturn a $25 million award to Edwin Hardeman. He was diagnosed with cancer after using Roundup on his San Francisco Bay area property for years. Bayer said the Supreme Court was also expected to rule soon on its request for a review of the $87 million award to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a California couple, in 2019. A state court jury awarded more than $2 billion to the Pilliods. A judge reduced it to $87 million. The couple, who both developed cancer, used Roundup on their properties in the 1970s.
Bayer, which is based in Leverkusen, Germany, inherited Roundup and the litigation when it acquired Monsanto in 2018. The world’s largest seed and ag chemical company, Bayer says glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup is safe to use and argues the EPA-approved label for the herbicide, which doesn’t mention cancer, preempts any claims that it should have warned purchasers of the risk. As part of a routine review, the EPA said in a 2020 interim decision “glyphosate is unlikely to be a human carcinogen.”
The latest Supreme Court ruling doesn’t affect the availability of Roundup for farmers.