Bayer vows to fight 8,000 glyphosate lawsuits
The German agribusiness giant has officially taken over Monsanto and its Roundup family of herbicides, including associated legal claims of cancer liability.

Bayer, the new owner of Monsanto and its flagship Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, has acknowledged 8,000 litigations against the products in the US and said it will continue to defend them.

On 10 August, a jury in San Francisco awarded €255m against Monsanto ($39m in compensation and $250m in punitive damages) after groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson claimed that glyphosate-based herbicides had caused him to develop non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer.

"Glyphosate was not the cause. A verdict by one jury in one case does not change the scientific facts and the conclusion of regulators that glyphosate does not cause cancer," Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann said in a conference call with financial analysts on Thursday.

He added that 8,000 legal cases were pending before state and federal courts in the US as of the end of July. The next trial will start in October in Missouri.

We want to make sure that glyphosate will continue to be available

"We will vigorously defend this case and also the cases that are up and coming," Baumann said. "We want to make sure that glyphosate will continue to be available."

In the Johnson v Monsanto case, the manufacturer's legal team will first file a motion with the court's judge to overturn the jury verdict, and is prepared to appeal to a higher court if this fails, Baumann said.

Brazil case

He also gave an update on a case in Brazil, where a court ordered the regulatory agency to remove glyphosate's licence within 30 days of a 3 August decision because of non-compliance with approval procedures. Baumann said Brazil's attorney general had applied to overturned the injunction on Wednesday.

He was speaking as Bayer officially took control of Monsanto on Tuesday after clearing regulatory obligations in the US.

"We are now the leading ag company in the world," Baumann said.

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Russian spies troll GM and glyphosate debate – report
Russian social media accounts linked to disinformation in the 2016 US election have also campaigned against new farming technologies, according to a media investigation.

The Times reports that scores of tweets linking biotechnologies to health scares were posted by fake or robotic accounts managed by Russian organisations.

The messages include "baseless claims" that GM crops and glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup cause autism, the newspaper found after interviewing academics analysing the Twitter accounts linked to Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Russian interest

Investigations have linked many of the accounts to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organisation allegedly funded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Analysts told The Times it was in Russia's interest to direct public opinion against modern agricultural technologies because the Russian industry is less advanced in that field, and it is a topic likely to create division between the US and its European allies.

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Bayer vows to fight 8,000 glyphosate lawsuits

Farm costs included in French food pricing law
New French legislation aims at restoring balance in the trade of agricultural products, including rules on minimum food prices.

The French parliament has passed legislation introducing a reference to farmers' production costs in minimum food pricing.

The new law states that any contract for the sale of agricultural products must "take into account one of several indicators relative to agricultural costs". However, lawmakers stopped short of defining what those indicators are, asking farmers, processors and retailers to set them through negotiation.

The law also authorises the government to set new rules on promotions and below-cost selling. An industry forum convened by President Emmanuel Macron last year agreed to raise the below-cost selling threshold for food products by 10% and stop aggressive promotions. The government has committed to limiting promotions on food products to a maximum discount of "three for two", as opposed to "two for one" currently.

The legislation also doubles penalties for animal welfare offences and forces pesticide sellers and advisers to operate as separate businesses. Government canteens, including those feeding all French schoolchildren every day, will have to purchase half of their ingredients from organic, local or quality-assured sources by 2022.

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100,000 lambs feared dead after New Zealand storm
Farmers face difficult spring weather in New Zealand as lambing and calving are in full swing.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall on New Zealand's North Island earlier this month have killed an estimated 100,000 new-born lambs, an industry analyst told local media.

Mel Croad of AgriHQ told TV New Zealand that individual farmers had lost hundreds of lambs in the storm, and some thousands.

More than 20m lambs are born each year in New Zealand.

Snow storm

A snow storm is now blanketing parts of the country's South Island, causing further stress to farmers and animals. Power outages were reported in the Otago region this Monday.

The region's dairy herds are in the middle of spring calving and New Zealand's milk production peaks in October.

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