Roundup Caused Her Cancer, but Bayer Won’t Pay Settlement Because She’s an Undocumented Farmworker, Lawsuit Says

Elvira Reyes-Hernandez was diagnosed with cancer after working for years with the weed killer on Virginia tree farms.

Sky Chadde Investigate Midwest

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Litigation over Roundup — the main ingredient of which, glyphosate, likely causes cancer—has had a long tail. And the latest lawsuit involving the once ubiquitous household weed killer dropped Jan. 18.

In 2020, Bayer announced a $10 billion settlement over claims Roundup caused cancer. One claimant was a farmworker in Virginia, according to the lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate and government accountability. She said she was exposed while working for years with the weed killer on tree farms.

Originally, she was given the chance to settle using the same program that many plaintiffs used to receive payments from Bayer, but she was then rebuffed, according to the lawsuit. Because she was not a U.S. citizen, like many farmworkers, she did not qualify, according to the lawsuit.

Seven months after signing onto the settlement program, she was dropped by her lawyers and was ineligible for a settlement, according to the lawsuit. 

Public Citizen said her civil rights have been violated because she was deemed not eligible because of her citizenship status.

Those harmed by unlawful conduct are entitled to compensation no matter their immigration status,” Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group, said in a press release. This lawsuit calls out discrimination by both Monsanto and some trial lawyers and will help put an end to such practices.”

Join Our Rural America Newsletter
A weekly digest of our best coverage

Bayer did not immediately return a request for comment on the new lawsuit. It has previously denied that Roundup causes cancer.

There have been years of litigation related to Roundup. It was originally produced by Monsanto but is now produced by Bayer after the German pharmaceutical company bought Monsanto in 2018.

In 2020, Black farmers sued Bayer over Roundup, alleging Monsanto and then Bayer did not adequately warn farmers about the risk of its weed killer. 

Roundup isn’t the only product from Monsanto over which Bayer has faced litigation. 

Farmers have spent years criticizing the herbicide dicamba for drifting” over from where it was sprayed and killing crops that were not resistant to the herbicide. The herbicide was intended to be used on crops that Monsanto had produced the seeds for.

Despite knowing dicamba would cause widespread damage, Monsanto decided to release the product anyway, Investigate Midwest reported in 2020.

Investigate Midwest is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Our mission is to serve the public interest by exposing dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions through in-depth and data-driven investigative journalism. Visit us online at www​.inves​ti​gatemid​west​.org

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Sky Chadde is the managing editor for Investigate Midwest. Previously, Chadde was the Center’s USA TODAY Agriculture Data Fellow. In 2019, he graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism with a master’s degree in investigative reporting. He’s covered Missouri state government for the Columbia Missourian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Before grad school, he was a reporter in Texas, covering local governments and law enforcement. At Investigate Midwest, he focuses on data journalism.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.