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Bayer plunges after jury finds its Roundup weedkiller caused cancer

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Argentina's soybean industry uses huge quantitities of glyphosate

"We continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate based herbicides do not cause cancer", the company said.

A United States jury on Tuesday found Bayer AG's glyphosate-based weed killer to be a "substantial factor" in causing a man's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, allowing the trial to proceed into a second phase on liability and damages.

The German company, which acquired Roundup as part of its $66bn takeover of USA rival Monsanto, said it was disappointed with the jury's initial decision.

Edwin Hardeman, the plaintiff in the case, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in 2015 after using Roundup to kill poison oak and weeds on his property for over 20 years.

That award was later reduced to $78m and is on appeal. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and that the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer", the company said. They predict that paying to resolve more than 11,000 related USA lawsuits, which Bayer inherited with its acquisition of Monsanto Co., could cost as much as US$5 billion. "And for Mr. Hardeman to have his day in court and to show that Roundup does cause cancer". Bayer's reliance on scientific experts' opinions that the main ingredient in Roundup, called glyphosate, was safe may have blinded it to the burden the giant transaction would bring.

A San Francisco federal jury unanimously agreed on Tuesday that Roundup caused a man's cancer - a potentially massive blow to the company that produces the glyphosate-based herbicide now facing hundreds of similar lawsuits. Together with its existing holding in Bayer, Temasek would then own about 4 percent in Bayer after the transaction.

With that question decided against Bayer, jurors will now hear about two more weeks of testimony to determine whether the company is liable for Hardeman's cancer, and if so, what damages he's owed.

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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.

After an earlier case went against the company, the latest verdict came as more of a surprise because the judge and trial setup appeared to favor Bayer.

Bayer, which closed on the purchase of Monsanto last summer, faces more than 11,000 US lawsuits alleging that glyphosate causes cancer.

Another Roundup trial is scheduled to begin in California state court in Oakland on March 28, involving a couple who claim Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Brokerage Warburg lowered its recommendation to "Hold" from "Buy", arguing that the with the renewed setback upcoming glyphosate court cases would remain a drag on the share price.

In August 2018 a court suspended licenses for products containing glyphosate, which is widely used in Latin America's agricultural powerhouse, but a higher court lifted the ban the following month. They will be able to present that evidence in the second phase.

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