Minister says Roundup safe after US cases

Matt Coughlan
Bayer says it will pay up to $US10.9 billion to settle thousands of US lawsuits regarding Roundup

Australia's agriculture minister insists common weedkiller Roundup is safe after its manufacturer agreed to pay almost $16 billion to settle cancer lawsuits in the US.

Pesticides giant Bayer agreed overnight to pay up to $15.8 billion to settle around 95,000 cases claiming Roundup caused cancer.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said labelling standards in America were different to Australia.

"Our regulations and our regulatory reform has been as robust as anyone else in the world," he told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

He's confident the government's agricultural chemical regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, has provided the right directions.

"I'm confident that if Australians continue to use it as per the label, it is perfectly safe," Mr Littleproud said.

Bayer has repeatedly said Roundup is safe and important to farmers who use the herbicide.

But the decision by Roundup's German manufacturer has given hope to litigants in Australia.

Maurice Blackburn is leading one of a number of Australia class actions against Bayer claiming the herbicide causes certain types of cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The law firm's national head of class actions Andrew Watson said the US settlement had no direct impact on the Australian cases because it was made without admission of liability.

"But obviously it is very welcome news that the company has decided to settle the US litigation," Mr Watson told ABC television on Thursday.

"What we would urge and hope is that the company takes a similarly sensible approach to the litigation on behalf of those Australians who have developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as a result of their exposure."

The legal disputes over Roundup were inherited with Bayer's $US63 billion takeover of Monsanto in 2018.

In May, the Federal Court gave the go-ahead for the Maurice Blackburn class action to be heard before any other class action about Roundup.

The firm alleges Monsanto was negligent in selling glyphosate-based Roundup products "which they knew (or ought to have known) could cause cancer".

Last year, Victorian landscape gardener Michael Ogalirolo, 54, launched legal action to sue Bayer after he developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In a writ filed in the Victorian Supreme Court, he said had regularly used Roundup between 1997 and 2019 and now suffered chest pain, shortness of breath, depression and anxiety.

"The defendant knew or ought to have known the use of Roundup products were dangerous for the plaintiff to use and capable of causing serious injury ... in particular causing DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, cancer, kidney disease, infertility and nerve damage, among other devastating illnesses," the writ said.