A federal jury determined that German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF will have to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, for damage caused by their dicamba-related products. The verdict comes at the end of a three-week trial of a case where Bader Farms alleges it is going out of business because of damage incurred by the companies' dicamba herbicides moving off of neighboring fields and harming their 1,000 acres of peach orchards.
In the early 2000s, Bader Farms was the largest peach farm in Missouri, with annual yields averaging about 160,000 bushels. Fifteen years later, yields had dropped by more than 90 percent. Bill Bader blames dicamba, and now he’s suing its makers for millions of dollars in damages.(No paywall)
Knowing federal regulators were paying attention to the new weedkiller's potential to contaminate other fields, Monsanto decided to “pull back” on testing to allow dicamba, according to testimony in the federal trial over the weedkiller. Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in the state, alleges that dicamba damaged their orchard.
A class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. district court in St. Louis says Monsanto and BASF genetically engineered dicamba-resistant crops knowing the weedkiller was likely to harm neighboring crops, and that "everything they did and failed to do increased the risk," reports Harvest Public Media.
The Department of Justice on Tuesday approved Bayer’s $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto, completing a two-year approval process for the mega-merger that spanned several countries. The combined company will be the largest agrochemical and seed company in the world with about $48 billion in annual sales.
German ag and healthcare giant Bayer said it is “in exclusive talks with BASF on the sale of its entire vegetable seeds business” as a way of gaining European approval for its takeover of Monsanto.
After consulting growers, researchers and chemical companies, the Missouri Agriculture Department said it will ban use of BASF's dicamba weedkiller on cotton and soybeans after June 1 in 10 southeastern counties and in the rest of the state after July 15 in order to prevent damage to neighboring crops. The state agency said it expects to issue similar limits for Monsanto and DuPont versions of the herbicide.
Following an explosion of complaints about crop damage by the weedkiller dicamba, the EPA strengthened its rules for spraying the herbicide onto genetically modified cotton and soybeans. The new guidelines require special training of applicators before they can spray dicamba, limit the time of day when it can be used and bar spraying when winds exceed 10 miles an hour, a reduction from the 15 mph limit this year.
In an effort to quell complaints about the weedkiller dicamba, Monsanto invited dozens of weed scientists to a summit in St. Louis, “but many have declined, threatening the company’s efforts to convince regulators the product is safe to use,” said Reuters. The EPA is considering additional rules governing how and when the herbicide can be sprayed onto strains of cotton and soybeans genetically modified to tolerate the chemical.
In the wake of this summer’s widespread damage to soybeans and other crops caused by the unintended drift from applications of the weedkiller dicamba, Reuters reports that EPA regulators told state officials that they are considering a ban on use of the herbicide after a cutoff date early next year. The idea would be to limit spraying to early spring, before soybeans emerge from the ground.