Hundreds of Missouri farmers have flooded state agriculture regulators with complaints about Monsanto’s dicamba pesticide, alleging the product drifted from other farms and damaged their crops.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has some 600 investigations related to dicamba pending. The lawsuits stretch back to 2016, the year that Monsanto introduced soybeans that it genetically engineered to resist dicamba.
State regulators have become so backlogged with Dicamba complaints that more staff will be needed if they are to make a dent in pending investigations. According to St. Louis Public Radio, the state agriculture department wants to add four investigators and two additional staff members. As it stands, the agency has enough staff to handle about 100 complaints a year.
Drifting Dicamba damages conventional crops
Farmers who don’t use dicamba on their crops say the herbicide drifts onto their fields, damaging and deforming their soybean plants. Monsanto has modified the DNA of soybean, cotton, and other broadleaf plants to resist the herbicide, which will kill just about every other crop.
The dicamba problem in Missouri is likely even bigger than the current caseload indicates. According to St. Louis Public Radio, a survey recently conducted by University of Missouri scientists found that many Missouri farmers are not reporting dicamba-related crop damage to the state because they see little or nothing being done about the problem — a situation that’s come to be known as “dicamba fatigue.”
“Dicamba fatigue has settled in; just because there aren’t reports to [the Missouri Department of Agriculture] doesn’t mean there still aren’t major issues,” on University of Missouri scientist Kevin Bradley noted in a presentation about the survey’s findings, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Missouri farmers aren’t the only ones reporting widespread crop damage from drifting dicamba. Illinois led the country in dicamba damage last year, according to Progressive Farmer. Regulators there are actively investigating 724 cases of alleged dicamba injury. The problem is also plaguing farmers in just about every other agricultural state.
EPA protecting corporate interests
NPR reports that the dicamba problem has grown bigger than state regulatory bodies are able to handle. Pesticide investigators and lab workers in several states are so overwhelmed by the volume of complaints they are receiving that they have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for help. But with the EPA squarely in the pocket of Monsanto and other corporate interests, little is being done to effectively address the problem.
According to NPR, the “EPA actually extended its approval of dicamba just a year ago, before the 2019 growing season. The agency decided the problems could be addressed with a few new restrictions on how and where dicamba can be sprayed, along with more training for people who use it.”
Some states have taken measures to restrict dicamba usage, but those changes haven’t improved the situation at all.
“As a matter of fact, the complaint numbers went up” in Indiana and several other states, Leo Reed, president-elect of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, told NPR.
With the EPA guarding corporate interests, many farmers are having to file lawsuits against Monsanto and others to recover damages and protect their future crops. A trial over Missouri peach farmer Bill Bader’s allegations that Monsanto and BASF’s dicamba products damaged his crops is underway in federal court in Cape Girardeau, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Monsanto also faces tens of thousands of lawsuits in the U.S. related to its Roundup herbicide, which international health officials have classified as a likely human carcinogen. Despite overwhelming evidence from independent studies linking Roundup to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers, the EPA recently doubled down on its claims that the herbicide doesn’t cause cancer and reapproved its active ingredient glyphosate for commercial use.
A trial involving Roundup claims in Monsanto’s hometown of St. Louis was called off as the parties neared a settlement. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto’s Roundup in 2018, lost the first three cases that went to trial, all in California, which resulted in a total of more than $2.4 billion in damages. Judges later reduced the damages, and Bayer has appealed the verdicts.
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently representing clients who have been exposed to Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For more information, contact a member of our Roundup Litigation Team: John Tomlinson (who heads up the team), Michael Dunphy, Danielle Ingram or Rhon Jones, all lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section.