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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Watch: Ireland takes on the world at Paris food fair
This year marks the 22nd year of Ireland's participation at SIAL.

Imagine walking towards the trade stands at the ploughing, but it’s indoors. Now make that five times bigger, replace the farmers with buyers in suits and replace trade stands with food companies. You have arrived at SIAL Paris 2018, the biggest business to business food fair in the world this year.

There are 7,200 exhibitors from over 110 companies to entertain the 160,000 visitors. Products are presented by category in eight different halls.

Exhibitors on the Bord Bia stands include 16 Irish meat companies, four Irish dairy and dairy ingredients companies, seven prepared foods manufacturers and five confectionary companies. ABP and Dawn Meat Group have their own separate exhibitions.

“It’s mind-blowing the volume of business being done and the amount of companies showing their wares here,” said Barry O’Connor, a dairy farmer from Youghal, Co Cork.

“As you walk around you realise there’s an awful lot of people here buying and there’s a lot to play for. It’s certainly the place for our companies to be, showing what we have to offer.”

Despite the size of the hall and the strong product offerings from other milk processors, he said that on the Origin Green stand the “atmosphere and vitality of the place is encouraging, people want our product".

"Everybody competes on price and we have to be there, or thereabouts. But to get the margin we need to promote the grass-fed image,” O'Connor added.


The Bord Bia stand held a prominent position in the meat hall where competition from beef factories worldwide was strong.

“You’ve got visitors from all the main markets, SIAL is a particularly good one for the European market and is a good networking opportunity,” said Stephen Keating, CEO of the Kepak's frozen division.

“It’s about making that connection with your existing customers, put your brand out there. Ireland has a fantastic stage here under the Bord Bia banner, it has been phenomenal and we’re very proud to be associated with it.”

SIAL is a biannual event, making this the last one before Brexit. Inevitably it was a major point of conversation among exhibitors and buyers.

“We talk about the opportunities; China and the US, but nothing is going to replace the UK market tomorrow. It’s not about who has the best business plan, it’s who is the most agile,” Keating said.

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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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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