Bayer has agreed to pay almost $7 million to settle claims made by New York's state attorney general that Bayer misled citizens of New York by saying that its Roundup weed killer is safe.

In a June 15 press release from the office of New York’s attorney general, Letitia James stated that Bayer will pay around $6.9 million to resolve the allegedly false claims that Roundup is safe and non-toxic without having enough evidence to support these claims. 

AG James stated these advertisements violated state laws against false and misleading advertising and broke a previous settlement that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had made with Monsanto in 1996. In that settlement, Monsanto had promised to stop making unsupported claims about the safety of Roundup products with glyphosate.

Monsanto, which invented the Roundup line of weed- and grass-killing products and the brand’s controversial active ingredient, glyphosate, was acquired by Bayer in 2018, one month before the first Roundup cancer trial began. A jury in that trial and the two trials that followed it returned plaintiff verdicts, determining that Roundup was responsible for the plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The four plaintiffs in the three Roundup cancer trials held in 2018 and 2019 each received tens of millions of dollars in damages. In 2020, Bayer settled approximately 95,000 Roundup cancer claims out of 125,000 claims for nearly $11 billion. 

The settlement reached between AG James and Bayer only resolves false advertising claims, not those related to personal injury claims. 

“Pesticides can cause serious harm to the health of our environment, and pose a deadly threat to wildlife, including pollinators and other species vital to agriculture,” said AG James. 

James added, “It is essential that pesticide companies — even and especially the most powerful ones — are honest with consumers about the dangers posed by their products so that they can be used responsibly. Once again, Monsanto and the company’s current owner, Bayer, made false and misleading claims about the safety of their products, but we will not allow them to get away with endangering our environment. My office will continue to protect the health of New York’s environment by ensuring our laws are respected and followed.”

AG James’ office stated that scientific studies have shown that certain formulations of Roundup pesticides can be toxic to wildlife, especially pollinators like honey bees and butterflies, as well as fish, amphibians, and other aquatic organisms. A recent survey in New York revealed that a significant number of pollinator species native to the state are at risk of disappearing, which could negatively affect crops and wildflowers.

In 2020, Attorney General James launched an investigation into whether Monsanto and its current owner, Bayer, were engaging in false advertising for their Roundup products, which would violate Monsanto's 1996 settlement with the OAG. The investigation found that several claims made in advertisements were not properly substantiated. For example, the companies claimed that Roundup products would only harm weeds and not animal wildlife, and they implied that their products were safer and less toxic than dish detergent and soap. 

These claims allegedly violated New York laws against business fraud and false advertising, as well as Monsanto's obligations under the previous settlement.

As part of the settlement, Bayer and Monsanto will pay $6.9 million to the OAG. This money will be used to prevent, reduce, restore, mitigate, or control the harmful effects of toxic pesticides, including those with glyphosate, on pollinators and aquatic species. The specific programs and projects to be supported by these funds are yet to be determined but may include research, monitoring, education, and habitat management.

The settlement also requires Bayer and Monsanto to immediately stop advertising Roundup consumer products with glyphosate as safe, non-toxic, harmless, or free from risks to pollinators and wildlife. They must instruct their distributors and retailers to stop using marketing materials that contain these false claims. Bayer and Monsanto will have to submit annual reports and certifications of compliance with the settlement, and they will face a $100,000 penalty for each failure to uphold their obligations under the agreement.