Roundup Cancer Settlement Hits Snag Over Future Plaintiffs' Rights
Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The $10 billion settlement does not actually need judicial review and is set to move forward. The issue is that $1.25 billion from the settlement does need a court order to be approved. That part deals with future lawsuits by cancer patients who have not yet gone to court and by others who have not yet been diagnosed. The U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said in an order Monday that he had questions about the legality and fairness of the agreement and was "tentatively inclined" to reject it, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
In a court filing on Monday, the judge described a plan to create a class action for future litigants as problematic, and he set a July 24 hearing date to address the matter, as Bloomberg reported.
"We appreciate the judge's order raising his preliminary concerns with the proposed class settlement, which we take seriously and will address" at the hearing, Chris Loder, a U.S.-based spokesman for the Germany-based chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer, said in an interview.
Chhabria said he "is skeptical of the propriety and fairness of the proposed settlement." He raised concerns about the creation of a scientific panel to decide whether the key ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer and whether the agreement unfairly limits potential plaintiffs from suing, according to The New York Times.
Right now about 30,000 claims contending Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are left unsettled. Some lawyers in the U.S. have vowed to file another wave of new suits that could add tens of thousands to the logjam of existing cases, according to Bloomberg.
"Thankfully, Judge Chhabria has seen the ruthless plan as an outrageous attempt to deprive every future victim of Monsanto's killer Roundup of their right to fair and full compensation and to a jury trial," Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, plaintiffs' attorneys for users of the weedkiller who haven't settled their suits, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Bayer has lost a series of high-profile multi-million dollar cases for Roundup's role in causing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in people who used the Monsanto brand herbicide. That series of losses has seen investors flee from Bayer since it acquired Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018.
To stem the tide of suits, Bayer insisted that the protection against future suits is a linchpin of the current settlement. Without it, the bulk of the $10 billion deal has the potential to fall apart, according to The New York Times.
In addition to the $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to cover about 95,000 cases, $1.25 billion was set aside to finance the scientific panel and assist impoverished Roundup users with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. As The New York Times described, that panel would then decide whether glyphosate caused cancer and, if so, what exposure level was dangerous. Both Bayer and claimants would be bound to accept the findings in future litigation.
New York-based lawyer Hunter Shkolnik opposed the novel class-action idea from the onset. He described it as "nothing more than a legally infirm, backroom deal to protect Monsanto rather than compensating Roundup cancer victims," in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
Judge Chhabria asked on Monday whether it was lawful to remove judges and juries from the equation and to shift the question of whether Roundup caused cancer to a panel of scientists.
According to The New York Times, he also noted the three previous multimillion-dollar verdicts and asked, "Why would a potential class member want to replace a jury trial and the right to seek punitive damages with the process contemplated by the settlement agreement?"
Furthermore, Chhabria also worried that the science on glyphosate's cancer-causing properties is still evolving. That led him to question whether it would pass legal muster to have claimants bound by one study that didn't find toxicity when a future, more rigorous study may find the opposite, as Bloomberg reported.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.