Ontario court to hear legal challenge against glyphosate

Bayer defends the safety of its product

Ottawa--The Ontario Superior Court will hear a legal challenge from the Ontario Centre for Health Science and Law (OHSL) seeking at least $1.2 billion from Bayer to compensate people who claim to have been harmed while using the herbicide glyphosate.

Bill Jeffery, OHSL Executive Director and General Legal Counsel, said in a statement the court ruling “is a welcome development for Canadians claiming to be harmed by the glyphosate-containing pesticide Round-Up that the World Health Organization describes as a probable carcinogen.”

While the claim has yet to be proven in court, Jeffrey said the presiding judge’s decision concluded that there is some basis for the OHSL's claim for liability on the manufacturer's part. OHSL submitted 17,000 pages of legal and factual material. The case is expected to face significant challenges.

Bayer said it was pleased the Court rejected certification for some proposed common issues, including those related aggregate damages. The ruling to certify OHSL’s request for a court hearing “is a procedural decision only.

“ It does not involve a finding on the merits of the claim, or on the allegations made against the defendants. Bayer firmly stands behind the safety of glyphosate-based products and will vigorously defend them.”

The company said it “stands fully behind the safety of our glyphosate products, which have been used safely and successfully in Canada and internationally for nearly 50 years. Leading health regulators in Canada and around the world have repeatedly concluded that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and that glyphosate products are safe when used according to label directions.”

After losing a court battle in the U.S. over possible harm caused by the weedkiller, Bayer has paid out most of the 154,000 claims made against it in American courts. There are 31 claims were before Canadian courts.

Health Canada has approved glyphosate’s use until April 27, 2032. Jeffrey said Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have collaborated on the re-evaluation of glyphosate.

Jeffrey said Health Canada is an imperfect regulator and Canadian courts have repeatedly certified class actions involving medical products that were not recalled and were still on the market.

“Health Canada’s indifference to the voluminous damning U.S. litigation outcomes and the WHO guidance, its stated preference for industry studies over peer-review research, and its foot-dragging on the Parliamentary Review may be coming home to roost in Canadian courts.”

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency stands by its 2017 decision to re-approve glyphosate for sale—without cancer or risk mitigation warnings—in Canada until at least the year 2033.

OHSL said Health Canada and other national pesticide regulators persistently favour seller-sponsored safety studies over studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals “and turn a blind eye to the litigation outcomes in the United States.”

This news report was prepared for National Newswatch.

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