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U.S. Black farmers seek ban or product warnings for Roundup weedkiller

CHICAGO, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A group of Black U.S. farmers filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, seeking to force Bayer AG to either stop selling its widely used weedkiller Roundup or roll out new product warnings.

The National Black Farmers Association’s filing is the latest turn in the legal battle over Roundup’s safety. Bayer in June agreed to pay as much as $10.9 billion to settle nearly 100,000 U.S. lawsuits claiming Roundup caused cancer.

The company denies all allegations that Roundup or its active ingredient glyphosate cause cancer, saying decades of independent studies have shown it to be safe for human use.

The association’s lawsuit says Black farmers developed cancer after being convinced to use the weedkiller because the manufacturer Monsanto said it was safe. The filing says Black farmers were forced to use Roundup and crops engineered to resist the chemical because Monsanto, which Bayer bought in 2018, acquired rival seed companies.

“If Roundup is banned, not only will farmers like me be safer, but it will open the door for the return of the conventional seed market,” said John Wesley Boyd Jr., the association’s founder and president. The group says it represents 109,000 Black farmers in 42 states.

Two law firms that are holdouts in the Roundup product liability litigation brought the association’s lawsuit, Bayer spokeswoman Susan Luke said. The company has resolved about 75% of claims over Roundup, she said.

“People should see this action for what it is – an attempt by plaintiffs’ lawyers to use media and more litigation to further their own financial interests,” Luke said.

Bayer said farmers have many choices for seeds and weedkillers.

Black farmers were less likely to understand the risks of Roundup because they have lower literacy rates and less access to the Internet, the association’s attorneys said. Among them is civil-rights lawyer Ben Crump, who also represents the family of George Floyd.

The case is National Black Farmers Association v Monsanto Company, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, No. 20-cv-01145. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by David Gregorio)

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