It happened. Last week, a settlement was announced. I must really be off my game this Covid – I’m late to report this enormous news, and have no excuse for the delay. None. I don’t leave my house. You can look at my image above to see that it isn’t due to time I’ve dedicated to self-care, though I do stare at the targeted Instagram ads on at-home dermabrasion machines with curiosity. I have become quite strong at ping pong and adjudicating whose turn it is to do the dishes, both are jousts of sorts that double as decent life skills. In a family 360 Review feedback meeting that I called on our green sectional sofa, I was alerted that I have a loud voice and that it would behoove the household happiness to work on muzzling that a bit. So I opened up a blog page, cued the silence, and turned back to writing.
With that, the big news.
$10.9 Billion of Bayer’s capital will be forked over to resolve the Roundup-NHL litigation, but Bayer admits no wrongdoing. There will be no warning labels. $8.8-9.6 Billion will cover current cases, except Johnson, Hardeman and Pilliod, which will continue through an appeals process.
In something of a surprise, $1.25 Billion will be set aside for a separate class agreement aimed to address potential future litigation and provide medical outreach for underserved communities to detect and treat NHL that MAY have been caused by Roundup. The attorneys involved in the class action are different than the core Plaintiff attorneys who originally worked for years on the litigation (Baum Hedlund, Miller Group, etc). The original attorneys could not be pleased with this tag-on settlement term.
So one might wonder, who will decide a verdict on this class action lawsuit? Who will ultimately determine if Roundup causes cancer or not? (A reminder: It is overwhelmingly clear that it does.)
And wow, it gets juicy in the worst of ways. The class action component appears to totally undermine the original work performed in the first three trials. The determination of who wins that class action battle will no longer come from a jury, but rather a “Science Panel.”
On a press release, Bayer writes:
Both the class and company will be bound by the Science Panel’s determination on this question of general causation, taking this decision out of the jury trial setting and putting it back in the hands of expert scientists. If the Class Science Panel determines that a causal connection between Roundup™ and NHL is not established, class members will be barred from claiming otherwise in any future litigation against the company.
Remember, thanks to the diligent work of the attorneys and plaintiffs in all of the trials leading up to this moment, the general causality was ALREADY SETTLED in court THREE TIMES.
Well, the attorneys who constructed this class action provision in the settlement will receive payouts of $150 million each. They sold out, and it impacts all of us, and innumerable plaintiffs who deserved their own trial in front of a jury. Monsanto has agreed to pay attorneys’ fees and costs up to $150 million, and class representative service awards up to $25,000 each.
The “Independent” Science Panel
All class action litigation will be put on pause for several years while the Scientific Panel makes its decision on general causality.
To construct this panel, a mutually decided upon third party will select the members. Because that sounds insanely sketchy, the other option is that both sides will select two scientists, and those four scientists can agree upon a fifth scientist to complete the panel. Apparently, the analysis of the existing public research will take FOUR YEARS to sift through. They also may file an extension if they need more time. At that time, the panel will decide once and for all if Roundup causes cancer.
I’m hearing echoes of Winning Wisner calling out the “independent” Intertek Panel, the hired group of scientists who facilitated Monsanto’s ghostwriting of a research paper in rebuttal to the IARC classification.
My gears are grinding thinking of Monsanto’s perpetual, unfounded rebuttal that no one but them seems to understand the science, and that science is the weakness in the Plaintiff arguments. The juries called foul on that claim three times. It should be game over for that argument based on science.
This class action component of the settlement is simply another Monsanto big win. Perhaps Bill Heydens and Donna Farmer can send one of the internal Monsanto powerpoints over to the class action attorneys to show how to go about hiring an “independent” group of scientists.
As AP students of Monsanto trickery, we should have predicted this strategy of feigning intellectual and ethical interest in seeking the “real” scientific answers on Roundup. Bayer is broadcasting that they will not label the product as a carcinogen because the science is too inconclusive. Otherwise, of course they would because they are good people.
Simply raising the issue of a need for an independent scientific panel employs an extremely powerful and successful PR strategy that has allowed many toxic products to stay on the market by way of “embracing skepticism.”
Investigative Journalist Paul Thacker captured this strategy brilliantly:
“Embracing skepticism” is a strategy the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton created for tobacco companies in the 1950s, a way to counter the prevailing science on a subject with experts who would offer a more industry-friendly alternative. Harvard historian Allan Brandt described the scheme as “brilliant” — it allowed tobacco companies to pretend they were addressing the accumulating evidence that cigarettes cause cancer while effectively undermining the public’s confidence in that evidence.
As a refresher, nearly all GMO seeds were developed merely to sell more Roundup, but marketed as advanced biotechnology for the good of humankind. The GMO seeds are named “Roundup Ready,” and stay alive even when drenched in Roundup. Monsanto and the US government claim that these GMOs are necessary to “Feed the World.” I actually bought that line for years.
The vast majority of GMOs are used to feed animals and make ethanol. Except for a minimal percentage of GMO-derived foods that humans eat, most end up in the bellies of animals at factory farms. So the correct term should be that GMOs “Feed the World Meat.” I hope that I haven’t ruined your 4th of July BBQ.
If this Scientific Panel will take four years to complete its analysis, it buys Bayer time to complete and deliver a replacement GMO/herbicide system to the Roundup-Ready GMO lovin’ farmers. And likely cover their rears as they did with Agent Orange, avoiding ultimate culpability.
The Roundup issue is SO much deeper than just these trials. The majority of our agricultural land has been used exclusively by this system, and now the soil is so unhealthy that changing to a cleaner agricultural system is financially impossible for farmers who might be interested in doing so. Without the Roundup Ready system, agricultural, animal and ethanol industries stand to collapse. I grabbed coffee with a GMO farmer in Iowa, who told me that even if Roundup is labeled a carcinogen, he is still going to use it.
It is of little surprise that presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump have all been huge supporters of Monsanto and the Roundup Ready system – the Agchem industry is gargantuan in its political influence.
Bottom line: The United States has ruined its most fertile heartland soil by use of the Roundup Ready GMO system, the product of which primarily feeds animals. The rest of the world is becoming increasingly disinterested in our poisonous food, and that is an enormous stress on Washington. The farmers are highly dependent on Roundup to have any reasonable income. (And that isn’t saying much.)
I’m considering the idea that no matter what the verdicts were in court, Roundup was going to stay on the market. While it is disappointing that Bayer wasn’t bankrupted, and that no warning label has been mandated on Roundup, this herbicide is deeply entrenched in the US economy. And of course, no regulator ever wants to say – oops, we were wrong.
Is Roundup just too big to fail?
I can’t imagine that these will be the final terms of the settlement. There will be future arguments heard in court with Judge Chhabria. We will see.
Oh, one more component of the settlement? Bayer will fund research on Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Note that Bayer already has a drug in use to treat NHL. Cause the problem and treat the problem – quite a business plan.
In enormous news, Mexico is phasing out Roundup!!! Mexico’s Environment Ministry has announced that glyphosate-based herbicides will be phased out of use in the country by 2024 to protect human health and the environment. Hopefully, they don’t replace Roundup with even more toxic herbicides.