Last month, Bayer AG announced a revised $2 billion plan to settle future claims that the glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, the pharmaceutical giant inherited when it acquired Monsanto in 2018, causes cancer.
Because of the fact that people who join the class must have already developed cancer to receive compensation, this excluding condition may in effect leave out thousands of migrant agricultural workers, a subset of people that are among the most frequently exposed to glyphosate.
VTdigger.com, a Vermont-based news site, interviewed Will Lambek, an organizer for the activist group Migrant Justice, a Burlington-based non-profit. Lambek said, “It would be very likely that anybody who does get sick because of the accumulation of toxins in their system [from Roundup] would be in their country of origin by the time they start presenting with symptoms.”
University of Vermont professor Bindu Panikkar told VTdigger.com that glyphosate and the other chemicals in the controversial herbicide have a long latency period. Therefore, she said, “It would probably take a number of years before you even find out that you have cancer.”
Lambek added, “If somebody is unable to work, they’re not going to stick around Vermont to try to get treatment.”
Incapable of earning an income, farm workers would be unable to remain in the state in which they were employed, be it Vermont, California, etc.
Bayer’s $2 billion settlement still needs to be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco. No timeline has been set on Chhabria’s review of Bayer’s “plan B” settlement fund.
Those who join the settlement class will receive between $5,000 and $200,000 in compensation over the next four years.
Bayer also promises to notify plaintiffs of settlement updates. However, many migrant workers come from rural areas in southern Mexico, and may not have any means of receiving communication about the settlement.
Should Bayer’s settlement plan be approved, other barriers to migrants receiving settlement money include the fact that plaintiffs must prove that their cancer was caused by glyphosate to a scientific panel. The panel’s findings wouldn’t be binding but may be influential in determining causation.
In addition, migrants may be skeptical about entering the court system for fear of deportation. Yet another concern is the language barrier; even if Bayer is promising to communicate with class members, will Spanish-speaking migrants be properly notified, especially if they return to their native country?
In June 2020, Bayer announced that for nearly $11 billion, it would settle the bulk of 125,000 Roundup claims that up to that point had already been filed. Plaintiffs, which have mostly been agricultural workers, landscapers, gardeners and farmers, have alleged that they developed a rare type of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as a result of being exposed to Roundup. The claims also accuse Monsanto of failing to disclose the health risks associated with the weed-killing chemical that’s also an EPA-registered pesticide.