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by Doug Cameron and Patrick Thomas, Wall Street Journal

Bayer faces a payout of $1.56 billion after a Missouri jury found in favor of the plaintiffs who blamed its Roundup weedkiller for causing their cancers.

The decision is the fourth in a row to go against Bayer during a roller-coaster five-year legal battle over Roundup, the world's most popular weedkiller, which included nine straight victories for the company, as well as earlier losses. The cases represent tens of thousands of claims from farmers and gardeners.

The mounting charges from cases tied to the herbicide come against the backdrop of Bayer's restructuring efforts. The overhaul could lead to the separation of its health business and its agriculture unit, which includes the U.S.-based Monsanto operation that developed Roundup. Analysts said how any Roundup-related liabilities are divided would affect the potential valuation of the two businesses.

Bayer maintains that Roundup and its main ingredient, glyphosate, is safe to use and has cited reviews by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators that have determined it doesn't pose a cancer risk. The European Union said in recent days that it would extend glyphosate's use for 10 more years.

Bayer has acknowledged that the legal status of Roundup litigation remains a hangover. "The challenge has been around some confusion about the safety of glyphosate," Chief Executive Bill Anderson said recently at a conference in Washington, D.C. "We think the evidence is super clear, this is a very safe and very important agricultural chemical."

Jurors in state court in Jefferson City, Mo., disagreed in a decision released Friday. They awarded the plaintiffs Dan Anderson, Jimmy and Brenda Draeger and Valorie Gunther a combined $61.1 million in damages and another $1.5 billion in punitive awards. The plaintiffs maintained that years of Roundup use in their gardens caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.

"We have strong arguments to get the recent unfounded verdicts overturned," a Bayer spokesman said in an email.

To read the entire report click here.

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