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According to allegations raised in a recent product liability lawsuit filed by an Illinois orchard, applications of the herbicide dicamba on neighboring farms caused widespread damage to fruit trees, indicating that the manufacturers of the weedkiller knew about the risk of “dicamba drift”, yet failed to warn consumers, regulators and innocent bystanders.
Flamm Orchards Inc. filed the complaint (PDF) last month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, naming Monsanto, BASF Corporation, DuPont De Nemours and Company, and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, farms near the company’s fruit tree orchards planted crops with dicamba-resistant seeds, and sprayed large amounts of dicamba-based products, such as Xtendimax, Engenia and Fexapan, resulting in significant damage to the orchard’s groves this year, when dicamba drifted onto their fields.
The damage caused loss of yield, as well as loss of seed and progeny in future growing seasons, the lawsuit claims.
Dicamba is a synthetic herbicide, which has been used for years by farmers nationwide to control weeds. However, it has typically only been used during certain times of year.
Following the promotion of genetically modified crops that are resistant to the herbicide, farmers began to apply dicamba more frequently, resulting in problems when it drifts onto neighboring crops.
The lawsuit claims that the high volatility is seen as a feature by the manufacturers, meant to force other farmers to use their products if they don’t want to suffer losses when their neighbors spray.
“Monsanto, BASF, and Dupont knew that their formulations of dicamba, and dicamba generally, is more likely to volatize and move off target during higher temperatures, lower humidity, or when mixed with glyphosate—precisely the conditions in which Xtendimax, Engenia, and Fexapan were intended to be used,” the lawsuit states. “Despite that knowledge, Monsanto, BASF, and Dupont never warned growers or applicators of the likelihood that their dicamba products would volatize and injure their neighbors’ crops when used for in-crop applications.”
The case joins a growing number of dicambi crop damage lawsuits filed over the last year, each raising similar allegations that Monsanto and BASF marketed the new type of tolerant crop, which can withstand exposure to their herbicides, knowing it would cause severe and widespread damage to neighboring crops, essentially forcing other farmers to defensively plant crops using their resistent seed in future growing seasons.
Complaints filed since August 2017 claim that Monsanto rushed the system and either withheld or concealed information from regulatory authorities about the volatility of Engenia, and marketed dicamba-tolerant crops without approval from regulators.
Farmers in several states claim that they have suffered millions of dollars in crop damage when Engenia or Xtendimax drifted onto neighboring, sensitive crops in the 2017 growing season.
According to a report issued in June, dicamba damage appears to be even worse this year, as use of the weed killer and resistant crops have spread. Many say farmers feel they have no choice, and must either buy dicamba-resistant soybeans or see their crops wither and die due to its use in other fields. A number of lawsuits have accused Monsanto of purposely designing dicamba to do crop damage in order to force farmers to buy its products.