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Monsanto loses 2nd case in US courts as Temasek loses S$1.3b in less than a year

Yesterday (19 Mar), a federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in causing cancer in a Californian man, Edwin Hardeman. Mr Hardeman was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal court.

During the trial, the 70-year-old testified that he had use the weed killer for a long period of time and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer.

The Hardeman’s case is considered a landmark trial for hundreds of other plaintiffs in the US with similar claims, which means the verdict could affect future litigation and other cancer patients and families. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, is facing more than 11,000 similar lawsuits across the US.

Yesterday’s ruling at a federal court followed a historic verdict last August in which a California state court ruled that Roundup caused the terminal cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper. In Mr Johnson’s case, the jury found Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” and awarded him US$289 million in damages. The verdict was later reduced by to US$78 million.

Monsanto has continued to argue that Roundup is safe to use and does not cause cancer.

In the next phase of the federal trial, Mr Hardeman’s lawyers will present evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, that could show the company knew the dangers of Roundup and glyphosate and attempted to cover them up. The jury will also weigh liability and damages.

Temasek invests 3 billion euros in Bayer to support its acquisition of Monsanto

After yesterday’s trial, the president of the NGO Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook, said, “Today’s verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people.”

“As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up,” Mr Cook added.

“The decision by Bayer to purchase Monsanto, a company with a long history of environmental malfeasance, could go down as one of the worst business decisions ever made. The day of reckoning for Bayer and its cancer-causing weedkiller is getting closer.”

In fact, it was Singapore’s Temasek Holdings which helped Bayer to acquire Monsanto.

It was reported in Apr last year that Bayer sold 3.6 per cent stake to Temasek for 3 billion euros at 96.77 euros per share. The money is used as part of Bayer’s plan to takeover Monsanto. Together with its existing holding in Bayer, Temasek would then own about 4 percent in Bayer after the transaction. By Jun, with Temasek’s help, Bayer successfully acquired Monsanto to become the biggest seed and agricultural chemical maker in the world.

Since Bayer’s subsidiary, Monsanto, lost in last Aug’s trial, investors have been viewing Bayer shares as high-risk stocks which they don’t want to include in their portfolios. Bayer has shed more than 30 billion euros from its market capitalization since losing its case in the California state court. It has also cut huge numbers of jobs and sold off parts of the company.

As at yesterday’s closing, Bayer’s share price was 69.70 euros. Since Temasek bought 3 billion euros worth of shares at 96.77 euros in Apr last year, that means it has lost 27.07 euros per share or 28% of the 3 billion euros investment. So, in less than a year, Temasek has lost at least 840 million euros or S$1.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Bayer CEO Baumann who came to Singapore in Jan this year to meet up with Temasek has assured that his company would put up a more “rigorous defence” of the chemical glyphosate used in Monsanto’s weed killer in the impending lawsuits. He continued to deny that Monsanto’s weed killer causes cancer in those cancer sufferers, who are suing Monsanto in the more than 11,000 cases.

The next Roundup trial is scheduled to begin in California state court in Oakland on March 28 next week, involving a couple who claim Roundup has caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even as more cases are waiting to be heard in US courts, more cancer sufferers are also queuing to file suits against Monsanto.