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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Bayer's Roundup plagued by supply disruptions, lagging court decisions


The wheel, the fork, coffee, the dishwasher, the toilet, Edison's lightbulb, landing on the moon, the Declaration of Independence, digital music and buying crypto currency are among the revolutionary ideas dismissed by Seinfeld co-creator Larry David in a series of commercials borne out of this year's Super Bowl.

Turn back the clock to 2016, and chances are David would have added Bayer's opportunity to acquire Monsanto, the maker of the herbicide Roundup, to the list of things he would have poo-pooed.

Facing thousands of lawsuits filed by those claiming the weedkiller Roundup is responsible for causing cancer, Bayer has spent billions in settlements. Recently, the company has said it should not be responsible for paying out any additional claims, and last August asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter. Last year, Bayer filed a petition with SCOTUS appealing a lower court decision in Hardeman v Monsanto. The company claims federal preemption prevents Bayer from complying with some states' laws asking for cancer warnings on product labeling.

In more recent news, disruption to supply of at least one undisclosed ingredient to Roundup has forced Bayer to limit production of the weedkiller it plans to pull from the consumer market next year.

According to Reuters, Bayer told its industrial customers on Feb. 11 of disruptions to supply and production, and declared force majeure, which relieves the company from contractual obligations. The slowdown of production, according to published reports, will last about three months. 

Shortly after Bayer announced plans to acquire Monsanto in 2016, the company was hit with a wave of lawsuits from litigants who say they contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma from repeated exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Since then, the company has settled nearly 100,000 cases for about $11 billion. The company also has set aside an additional $4.5 billion for future settlements. 

In December, the Supreme Court asked for input from the Solicitor General's office in response to Bayer's request for the court to overturn Hardeman.

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