Monsanto and its new owner Bayer AG have been deluged with thousands of lawsuits over the alleged cancer-causing properties of Roundup and its key ingredient glyphosate. In one of those lawsuits, a former groundskeeper in San Francisco was awarded $289 million in damages by a jury. That case has opened the floodgates for Roundup litigation across the country.
But things are about to get worse for Monsanto and Bayer.
Dicamba is another chemical often used in herbicides produced by Monsanto. It is a powerful and volatile chemical that can easily move from where it was sprayed. This can cause other crops that are not resistant to dicamba’s effects to die, thus reducing the yields of farmers’ crops. That is why dicamba was not approved to be used on crops until just 2016. This was after Monsanto and chemical company BASF came up with new formulations that would supposedly be less likely to drift and affect other crops.
Despite the new formulas, complaints about dicamba have been growing in 21 states. The most complaints have emerged from Arkansas and Missouri. One possible reason is that many farmers could still be using older formulations of dicamba. These are no longer approved for use on crops. Also, it could be that the new formulas of dicamba are just as volatile and unsafe as the older ones.
Whatever the cause, we know that farmers in at least 21 states are suffering heavy financial losses due to poor crops from dicamba contamination. That is why many farmers are now filing lawsuits against Monsanto, Bayer AG, and other herbicide manufacturers to be compensated for their losses.
Farmers Suing for Justice Over Dicamba
Some local authorities have brought fines against farmers who are misusing dicamba. But these fines are small, often only $200 to $1000. This is a tiny number compared to the millions of dollars of damages that have been done by dicamba misuse and abuse. In some cases, the guilty farmer receives only a warning. Modern Farming has reported that farmers affected by dicamba could lose up to 30% of their annual crop yield, which could effectively bankrupt some of these hard-working Americans. (1).
Some experts estimate that dicamba has already affected at least three million acres of farmland. This is an area roughly the size of Connecticut. Because the fines are so small, and because criminal charges are unlikely against BASF and Monsanto, farmers in Arkansas and other states are filing lawsuits in state and federal courts to get compensation for the damage suffered to their crops.
How Dicamba Is Different from Glyphosate
Glyphosate is popularly known by its trade name Roundup and is one of the least toxic herbicides today. This is a fact that companies have used to justify its widespread use around the world. It became the most popular herbicide after the first crops resistant to glyphosate became available in the 1990s. Farmers could use it to kill weed without damaging crops.
Dicamba is thought to be more toxic than glyphosate but is not as toxic as 2,4-D, another common herbicide. When it is used properly, dicamba is thought to be only mildly toxic to people, wildlife and pollinators. But dicamba can damage crops that are not genetically modified to resist its effects.
One of the big disadvantages of dicamba is that it is more volatile. This means that it can easily become airborne and drift away from where it was sprayed. Dicamba has been used largely as a pre-emergent, meaning applied to the soil to kill weeds before planting crops, because it was too toxic to apply it directly to crop plants.
But recently, farmers began planting new Monsanto soybeans on 1 million acres in the US and were spraying fields with dicamba to kill a certain type of pigweed. But the pesticide tended to drift on the wind and damage soybeans on other fields that are not sufficiently resistant to the herbicide. (2). And that is why we are beginning to see dicamba lawsuits and will see more shortly.
Recently, lawsuits over dicamba that were filed in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri are going to be centralized in federal court in St. Louis. The AP reported last August that the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to centralize the 11 cases, which alleged that the chemical caused major damage to their crops of soybeans. (3). In response to crop damage this year, EPA has issued stricter limits on how and when farmers can spray the herbicide. Arkansas has banned the chemical from April 16 to Oct. 31.
Eligibility for Dicamba Lawsuits
To qualify for one of these lawsuits, you have to be a commercial farmer whose crop yield suffered substantial losses due to dicamba in 2017. Dicamba herbicides include DuPont’s FeXapen, BASF’s Engenia, and Monsanto’s XtendiMax.
Dicamba Crop Damage Signs
Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory states that signs of dicamba crop damage include twisted leaves, upward cupping on leaves, narrow, strap-like leaves on the youngest leaves, and aboveground roots on the stems of some flowers. (4).
- Dicamba Damage Still Escalating Nationally According to Updated Survey (2018). Retrieved from https://www.stltoday.com/business/local/reported-dicamba-damage-still-escalating-nationally-according-to-updated-survey/article_1051b12d-daee-523b-a935-07ee2e1f1555.html
- Dicamba Update. (2016). Retrieved from https://modernfarmer.com/2016/08/dicamba/
- 11 Dicamba Damage Lawsuits Being Consolidated in Federal Court. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.harvestpublicmedia.org/post/11-dicamba-damage-lawsuits-be-consolidated-federal-court-st-louis
- Overview of Dicamba Problem. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/id/id_184_w.pdf