Opening arguments began on May 4th for the first Roundup weedkiller cancer trial outside of California. The trial, which is being held in Kansas City, Missouri, is also distinguished as the first trial in which Hugh Grant, the former CEO of Monsanto who ran the company for 15 years, will testify. 

Attorneys for Bayer maintained that in-trial testimony from Grant was unwarranted because the former CEO, who presided over Monsanto from 2013 until the acquisition, provided a five-hour deposition. However, Grant was ordered by a judge to testify in the case, which pits Bayer AG, the German-based pharmaceutical giant that acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, against Roundup user Allan Shelton, reported. 

Legal counsel for Shelton, who claims that long-term usage of the herbicide led him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, argues that during Grant’s 15-year tenure, the former CEO was chiefly responsible for the company’s marketing and distribution practices.

A statement by Bayer said that the company remains confident that Grant’s participation in this trial will only strengthen its argument that the company relies on the conclusions of leading expert regulators worldwide.

After losing the first three trials in which plaintiffs were awarded an average of nearly $50 million in damages, Monsanto has won the two most recent cases in California.

Bayer has spent roughly $11 billion to resolve approximately 100,000 Roundup cancer claims. An estimated 30,000 cases remain unresolved. The company has set aside an additional $4.5 billion for future Roundup litigation and is waiting on the Supreme Court to decide whether it will review a $25 million jury decision for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman. 

Should the Supreme Court decide to review the Hardeman case, Bayer is hoping that it can convince the Court to toss out remaining Roundup claims on the grounds that federal law does not require a cancer warning label on Roundup products. 

Only one entity, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, has classified glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup, as a probable human carcinogen. Several municipalities and countries have either banned glyphosate or have restricted its use. Bayer announced in 2021 that it would cease selling glyphosate-based Roundup for commercial use by 2023. The company plans on reformulating the herbicide with another chemical compound that has yet to be disclosed.