Law Street Media

Monsanto, Bayer, and BASF Face Dicamba Lawsuits

A tractor spraying a field

Tractor spraying pesticides on soybean field with sprayer at spring

In addition to facing continuing lawsuits over Roundup, agricultural giant Monsanto has now been confronted with lawsuits regarding dicamba-tolerant technology. The company sold seeds that are allegedly resistant to dicamba weed killers but have received complaints of damaged crops. A complaint filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas April alleged that farmers have suffered damage to crops as a result of products sold by Monsanto and BASF.

“Defendants knew that dicamba, highly volatile and prone to drift, is ruinous to susceptible non-dicamba resistant plants and crops. Not only did Defendants release their dangerous system onto the market, creating high risk of harm, but everything they did and failed to do increased that risk, all but ensuring damage to non-dicamba resistant plants and crops. That damage in fact served Defendants’ purpose of pressuring farmers to purchase dicamba-resistant seed out of self-protection,” the complaint says.

Donnie B. Mitchell, represented by Kelly Law Firm, claims dicamba is very volatile and bears a high possibility of damaging susceptible crops, where it leaves distinct symptoms like leaf curling, discoloration, or twisting. The lawsuit alleges negligence and failure to warn consumers.

Monsanto, which was purchased by Bayer in 2018, has been served with numerous complaints of injury to crops or farmers from their Roundup product in the last few years, with an average of about 10 product liability complaints a day since the end of 2018. A jury in the Eastern District of Missouri ruled against Monsanto and Bayer in a similar case about dicamba in February with a $265 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Bader Farms, located in Missouri argued that it’s peach trees suffered irreparable damage because of the dicamba fertilizer.  Although the majority of cases filed against Monsanto still concern Round-up, this ruling has led to more dicamba cases, likely causing product liability complaints against Monsanto and Bayer to rise.

“The law is clear that if you sell a product and if you foresee a use that is dangerous to the public, then you have an obligation to take steps and not sell it,” says Bader Farms attorney Billy Randles to Successful Farming. “They (Monsanto) clearly knew there were going to be off-label applications. They thought the benefit of selling it was worth the risk.” He was referring to the sale of Xtend soybeans, an allegedly dicamba-tolerant seed launched in 2016, but the dicamba formulations designed to work with the Xtend soybeans were not launched until 2017.

Bayer announced that they planned to appeal the February jury decision in a press release. “Bayer clearly disagrees with the jury’s verdict and is very disappointed with this result. We will swiftly appeal the decision. While we have great empathy for any farmer who suffers from crop losses, in the case of Mr. Bader there was no competent evidence presented which showed that Monsanto’s products were present on his farm and were responsible for his losses,” the release said. According to Successful Farming, the Bayer attorneys argued that the peaches did not test for dicamba damage and the damage came from another source.

They argued that weed management prevents greater yield loss and helps farmers make the best use of their resources. Bayer said they continue to stand behind their various herbicide tools and claim they do not pose “any unreasonable risk.” 

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