Atrazine, the active ingredient that has been on the market in the United States for more than 50 years, has been in on the radar for a number of groups including community water systems that had made claims about detections of the product in lawsuits going back to 2004. A group of those communities had sued Syngenta, maker of atrazine, over the issue in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois - and late Thursday the groups and the company reached a settlement.
The agreement must still be approved by the court, but would terminate all pending litigation by the community water systems in state and federal courts in Illinois.
Under the terms of the agreement, according to a Syngenta statement, the company expressly denies liability and the plaintiffs acknowledged that they are not aware of any new scientific studies related to the product. The agreement was reached in order to "avoid the business uncertainty and expense of protracted litigation," according to a statement from Syngenta.
Total cost of the settlement is $105 million, which will be charged to the company's income statement in 2012. The charge is partly covered by provisions and the impact on earnings will be about a nickel per share.
This settlement means that atrazine will remain available to farmers for use in their weed control programs. In its statement, Syngenta says: "this settlement is good for the company and the farmers who depend on atrazine, as well as our retailers, distributors, partners and others who have been inconvenienced by this ongoing and burdensome litigation."
The litigation began almost eight years ago when a group of community water systems claimed that Syngenta should pay to filter atrazine from their water supplies. After almost eight years of litigation, the plaintiffs were unable to come up with any new scientific studies relating to the safety of atrazine. "No one ever has or ever could be exposed to enough atrazine in water to affect their health," the Syngenta statement notes.
In the settlement, any water system that has ever detected any amount of atrazine in its raw or finished water in the past or up to approximately 90 days after the date of preliminary approval of the settlement is entitled to share with the plaintiff's attorneys in a $105 million fund.
Syngenta notes that atrazine is "one of the best understood herbicides in the world with almost 7,000 studies conducted over the past 50 years having examined its safety. The crop protection product is used in more than 60 countries.
Details of the agreement can be found at www.atrazinefacts.com.