MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian farmer has launched a legal action against Bayer AG's agricultural chemicals unit Monsanto after being diagnosed with a type of cancer he says was caused by its weedkiller, a lawyer for the man said on Friday.
New South Wales farmer Ross Wild was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma last year after using the weedkiller Roundup on his farming property near the border of NSW and Victoria since 1976, according to his lawyer Tony Carbone, of Melbourne-based Carbone lawyers.
Wild says long-term exposure to Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, was to blame, Carbone told Reuters, adding that he has had enquiries from more than 100 more people with the disease.
A Bayer spokesman said the company was aware of media reports regarding a statement claim about glyphosate but had not yet been served a writ.
"We have great sympathy for any individual with cancer, but the extensive body of science on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup does not cause Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL)," he said in a statement.
Glyphosate had been extensively studied by scientists and regulators, and research had confirmed it was not carcinogenic, the spokesman said.
"We firmly stand behind the safety of glyphosate-based products, and as a company devoted to life sciences, assure Australians that their health and the environment are our top priority."
Glyphosate is the world's most widely used weedkiller. Monsanto's Roundup was the first glyphosate-based weedkiller but is no longer patent-protected and many other versions are now available. Bayer does not provide sales figures for the product.
The company said in a statement that as of July 11, it faced lawsuits brought by roughly 18,400 U.S. plaintiffs who say glyphosate caused cancer.
A trial over the weedkiller scheduled to begin on Oct. 15 in Missouri had been delayed, Bayer said this month.
The lawsuit is the latest of several to be put on hold as mediator Ken Feinberg tries to negotiate a settlement between the company and U.S. plaintiffs after a California jury in August last year found that Monsanto should have warned of alleged cancer risks.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Clarence Fernandez and Richard Pullin)