World

Bayer dangles $5.6 billion olive branch to Roundup critics

Bloomberg June 14 | Updated on June 14, 2019 Published on June 14, 2019

The Bayer AG logo   -  REUTERS

Bayer AG will pump about 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) of its research and development budget into alternatives to its weed killer glyphosate over the next decade as it battles more than 13,000 lawsuits claiming the herbicide causes cancer.

Trying to ease concerns about the controversial compound, the German chemical and drug company said it will seek more public feedback during the coming safety certification process in Europe. Bayer wants to offer farmers new products to combat weeds while standing behind glyphosate-based Roundup, which it acquired via its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto.

“While glyphosate will continue to play an important role in agriculture and in Bayer’s portfolio, the company is committed to offering more choices for growers,” according to a statement Friday.

Bayer is working to rehabilitate its image as it battles a wave of US-centered litigation that has spread to other countries such as Australia. Last month, the German company suffered a third straight trial loss over claims that exposure to Roundup caused cancer, prompting some analysts to raise their estimates for settling the litigation to as much as $10 billion.

The 5 billion euros in spending on new herbicides over the next decade does not represent new money. It’s part of Bayer’s existing 2.5 billion-euro annual budget for crop science research and development, spokesman Tino Andresen said. The company expects more growth from seeds and digital farming businesses in coming years, where innovation is expected to yield greater rewards.

The shares were little changed at 11:35 a.m. on Friday in Frankfurt. They’ve lost more than 40 per cent since the Monsanto deal closed a year ago.

Bayer has struggled to cope with the negative sentiment that Monsanto has left in the minds of many people around the world. Last month, it hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to investigate a surveillance project that the US company launched against European reporters and policy makers.

EU Registration

Bayer and others that sell glyphosate-based products need another review in order to keep selling the chemical in the region after 2022. The last round was contentious, ending in a re-approval for just five years -- compared with the usual 15 -- in 2017.

Re-registration for glyphosate in the European Union is due to start later this year. While the process typically involves some public review, Bayer promised to invite scientists, journalists and NGOs to contribute to the company’s scientific preparations. The European Commission has also pledged greater transparency.

Published on June 14, 2019

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