It’s Farmer v. Monsanto in Court Fight Over Dicamba Herbicide

Sierra magazine, 2/3/20

Bader Farms claims Monsanto induces farmers to buy dicamba-tolerant seeds

Update: and farmer won! See “Missouri Farmer Wins $265 Million Verdict Against Monsanto” in Sierra magazine, Feb. 25, 2020.

A showdown is underway in the Midwest as the owner of a large Missouri peach farm seeks to hold the former Monsanto Co. accountable for millions of dollars in damage to his crops—losses the farmer claims resulted from a corporate strategy to induce farmers to buy high-priced specialty seeds and chemicals.

The trial got underway on January 27 in US District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Farmer Bill Bader, who has grown peaches in Missouri’s “Bootheel” region for 40 years, is seeking more than $20 million. The lawsuit alleges that Bader Farms lost more than 30,000 trees due to Monsanto’s actions, in collaboration with German chemical giant BASF, to profit from a new cropping system involving genetically engineered seeds designed to tolerate dousing of the herbicide dicamba.

Bader claims Monsanto sold GMO dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton seeds despite knowing the actions would trigger chemical damage to farm fields that were not planted with the new seeds. The intent, the Bader Farms’ lawsuit alleges, was to induce farmers to buy the specialty seeds as a means to prevent crop damage from herbicide drift coming from neighboring farmers who were planting the GMO crops and spraying them with dicamba.

Testing showed that leaves of his dying peach trees carried traces of dicamba. The 5,000-acre family farm, which produced 5 million to 6 million pounds of peaches annually along with corn, soybeans, various berries, apples, and tomatoes, is now struggling to survive, according to Bader.

Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer AG in 2018, and BASF, which initially developed dicamba in the 1950s, have claimed that other factors are to blame for Bader’s problems on his farm, including a soil fungus. The companies deny they have any liability for his losses. 

But among the evidence introduced at the Bader Farms trial are internal Monsanto documents showing that the company predicted thousands of drift complaints would occur after its new seed product launch.

Bader is only one of a large and growing group of US farmers who say they are the victims of a clearly foreseen chemical catastrophe many years in the making that has ruined crops covering millions of acres of farmland….

read more at Sierra

Photo by Bacsica/iStockBy Carey Gillam

Tell Gov. Wolf to ban dicamba

Sign the petition: Ban Dicamba Now

Imagine Monsanto’s “perfect” herbicide: It kills everything, except the one soybean plant that farmers want.

The problem is that this herbicide doesn’t stay where it’s sprayed. It drifts — staying up in the air 72 hours later — and damages or destroys every plant it in its path, from trees and wildflowers to neighboring farms. 1

It’s dicamba, which is made by Monsanto and other companies. And thanks to its pairing with this new genetically-modified soybean, its use is skyrocketing.

Arkansas has already banned this pesticide. We can do the same in Pennsylvania and in other states across the country. Add your name to our petition today: T ell Gov. Tom Wolf it’s time to ban dicamba.

Nationwide, hundreds of reports have come in about dicamba drift harming neighbors’ trees and farms. 2 And that’s leading to a showdown in state governments, with pesticide manufacturers arguing against limits, and farmers and citizen advocates arguing for them . 3 That’s why it’s crucial that you tell Gov. Tom Wolf how you feel.

If enough states enact bans on dicamba, and enough people speak up about the need for caution, the EPA might consider doing the right thing nationwide. But we can’t do this without you — add your name to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to ban dicamba in Pennsylvania today.

Why should we be concerned about dicamba use? The EPA’s human health assessment shows that 1- and 2-year-old infants are the group most heavily exposed to dicamba on their food. 4

At the very least, the EPA should exercise caution before allowing toxic pesticides on the market.

Instead, the agency allowed a new version of dicamba to go to market without being tested by independent researchers , and despite its own research that this drifting pesticide would pose a danger to crops and human health when sprayed widely. 5

Nathaniel, it’s simple: When it comes to pesticides, we should exercise caution. We shouldn’t allow the use of potentially toxic pesticides unless and until they are proven safe.

Because dicamba can travel, we have no assurance that it isn’t also spreading to homes, schools and playgrounds.

Monsanto should have known this product could drift. The EPA fast-tracked a new version without completely testing its drift potential. But we have a chance to do the right thing here in Pennsylvania. Add your name today.

Thank you,

Adam Garber
PennPIRG

1. Caitlin Dewey, ” This Miracle Weed Killer Was Supposed to Save Farms. Instead, It’s Devastating Them ,” The Washington Post, August 29, 2017.
2. American Association of Pesticide Control Officials, ” Dicamba ,” September 6, 2018.
3. Daniel Charles, ” A Drifting Weedkiller Puts Prized Trees At Risk ,” KCUR, September 27, 2018
4. Olga Naldenko, ” EPA Chief Backs Another Pesticide Harmful To Kids ,” Environmental Working Group, October 30, 2017.
5. Olga Naldenko, ” EPA Chief Backs Another Pesticide Harmful To Kids ,” Environmental Working Group, October 30, 2017.

One more poison to fight!

“The EPA Says Farmers Can Keep Using Weedkiller Blamed For Vast Crop Damage, by Dan Charles, NPR, November 1, 2018

For months, farmers from Mississippi to Minnesota have been waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to make up its mind about a controversial weedkiller called dicamba. Some farmers love the chemical; other farmers, along with some environmentalists, consider it a menace, because it’s prone to drifting in the wind, damaging nearby crops and wild vegetation.

This week, on Halloween evening, the EPA finally announced its decision. Calling dicamba “a valuable pest control tool,” it gave farmers a green light to keep spraying the chemical on new varieties of soybeans and cotton that have been genetically modified to tolerate dicamba.

A coalition of environmental groups that had filed a lawsuit against the EPA’s original approval of dicamba blasted the decision to keep it on the market. Paul Achitoff from Earthjustice said in a statement that “EPA’s disregard of both the law and the welfare of … species at risk of extinction is unconscionable.”…

read more at NPR