In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). Within months, the first lawsuits were filed seeking to hold glyphosate patent holder Monsanto responsible for injuries in people exposed to glyphosate.

Executive Summary

In spite of similarities between the chemicals aspartame and glyphosate—some scientific literatures tie each of them to important health risks, while others suggest there is little risk if used as directed—aspartame, better known by the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, isn't likely to be the next glyphosate (aka Roundup) in the world of mass torts. Here, Praedicat executives explain that a determination by the WHO's agency on cancer research as IARC Group 2B rather than 2A could be the key difference maker in the development of litigation claiming aspartame consumption causes cancer.

Glyphosate was one of the most popular herbicides at the time, making it easy for opportunistic lawyers to find people with high exposure, and nearly every filed complaint referenced the IARC decision naming it as probably carcinogenic to humans.

In what would turn out to be a riskier business decision than they thought, Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 while initial glyphosate cases were already pending. By the end of 2019, juries in two trials awarded plaintiffs $289 million and $80 million in cases where they alleged glyphosate caused their cancers. Damages in those cases were reduced on appeal to $21 million and $25 million, respectively. In 2020, Bayer settled the majority of the glyphosate litigation for $10 billion.

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