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Have you or a loved one been harmed by the herbicide Dicamba?
Herbicide dicamba has a long and complicated history in the United States. It was first approved for use in the late 1960s for specific applications but carried concerns about off-site drifting due to its volatility. In recent years, three chemical companies have created new formulations of dicamba that could be applied directly to genetically modified cotton and soybeans.
However, within months of new formulations being approved, farmers began experiencing losses in crop yield that damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybeans and caused millions in financial loss for producers all over the country.
Now, dicamba makers Monsanto, BASF, and DuPont are facing mounting lawsuits from farmers who claim that the companies sold unsafe products that caused untold damage and essentially forced farmers to buy dicamba products for protection against off-site drifting.
Learn more about how farmers are trying to recover losses through lawsuits.
What is Dicamba?
Dicamba is not a new herbicide. In fact, it’s been around for decades. It was first registered in the United States in 1967 and is used in all types of settings — agricultural, industrial, and residential.
Dicamba is a selective benzoic acid herbicide made to control broadleaf weeds and woody plants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dicamba was the seventh most commonly used pesticide in the home and garden in 2000.
Despite its long-term use, dicamba carries a notorious reputation among farmers: the herbicide vaporizes quickly and blows in the wind. This means if someone were to use the herbicide in one area, vapor could potentially travel for miles in the wind — a phenomenon called off-site drifting. The herbicide is particularly toxic to soybeans.
New Dicamba-Resistant Crops Released in 2016
Over the years, weeds have evolved to resist many types of herbicides like glyphosate and dicamba. That’s why chemical companies have continually looked for ways to stay ahead of adaptable weeds.
But, rather than creating a new herbicide, it is more cost-effective for Monsanto to create genetically modified crops that are designed to be resistant to new herbicide formulations. So, Monsanto created new dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton for 2016 called Xtend.
The idea is that farmers could use Monsanto’s Roundup to get rid of weeds and the new dicamba products to get rid of what was left over. The only problem is that Monsanto began selling the new dicamba-resistant crops before the new formulations were approved by the EPA.
Because farmers were desperate for solutions to problematic weeds but did not yet have access to Monsanto’s new formulations, some used the old dicamba products which caused massive amounts of damage to neighboring soybeans.
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Dicamba Toxicity Levels
Dicamba is very toxic to many types of crops. The herbicide can cause plants and trees of all types to develop various symptoms, including:
- twisted leaves,
- leaf wrinkling,
- stunted growth,
- cupping leaves,
- leaf elongation, and
- stem twisting.
The damage dicamba does to plants mimics the damage caused by other factors like aphids and viruses, which is why it is important for producers to thoroughly examine the damage.
According to the EPA, dicamba residues on food were determined to be “safe.”
New Dicamba Herbicide Products Don’t Help
Three new dicamba formulations were approved by the EPA later in 2016 for use directly on the genetically modified soybeans and cotton.
New Dicamba Products
- Monsanto Xtendimax with VaporGrip Technology
- BASF Engenia Herbicide
- DuPont FeXapan Herbicide Plus VaporGrip Technology
Despite the new formulas, state agricultural departments around the country were inundated with thousands of complaints about dicamba damage.
More than 2,700 dicamba-related crop injury investigations were received by October 2017. Roughly 3.6 million acres of soybeans affected. Dozens of additional crops and plants were also damaged.
“It is an extremely high profile and significant situation,” Reuben Baris, the acting chief of the herbicides branch of EPA told The New York Times in November 2017.
Despite the new formulations, reports about damage kept coming. Even before the products were released, researchers suspected that they would still be susceptible to off-site drifting that could cause damage to neighboring crops.
Farmers File Dicamba Lawsuits
It didn’t take long for farmers to begin filing lawsuits against Monsanto and the other dicamba makers.
The first lawsuit against Monsanto was filed by Bill Bader, who manages a peach tree orchard in Missouri. He claimed that damage was done to tens of thousands of his peach trees from the off-site movement of dicamba, causing a multi-million dollar financial loss.
Another lawsuit against Monsanto and BASF was filed by Bruce Farms in Arkansas in July 2017. The plaintiffs alleged that the dicamba products were defective, the companies were negligent, there was a breach of warranty, and that the companies engaged in deceptive trade practices.
“Defendants engaged in unconscionable, false, and deceptive acts and practices in selling and labeling its products to imply that the product could safely be used in northeastern Arkansas, when each Defendant knew or should have known, if exercising ordinary care, that this was not the case,” the lawsuit states.
Other lawsuits making similar claims of deceptive trade practices, product liability, and breach of implied warranty were also made against the three companies.
Throughout all of the controversy, Monsanto has consistently said that the products are safe when the labels are followed correctly.
Monsanto & BASF Accused of Violating Anti-Trust Laws
As a consequence of dicamba drifting, farmers have claimed that they are forced to buy Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant crops just to protect themselves from the toxic herbicides coming onto their fields.
An attorney who brought one of the cases against Monsanto and BASF said that farmers want to plant seeds of their choice but have to buy dicamba-resistant soybeans to protect their crops from damage.
“We also have anti-trust issues. As discovery is ongoing, we believe the evidence will show Monsanto and BASF knew more dicamba damage would lead to increased sales,” he told Chris Bennett of Farm Journal.
The lawsuit claims that whenever the Xtend crops are used, dicamba drift occurs. The only way for farmers to play defense is by buying Xtend too. It is a repeating cycle of increased sales and profits for Monsanto and BASF, the lawsuit says.
File a Dicamba Lawsuit Today
So far, more than a dozen pending actions have been consolidated into a single multidistrict litigation by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Because the panel found that all of the cases dealt with similar questions of fact, they could be centralized in a single court for judicial efficiency and expediency.
“The actions share factual questions arising from allegations concerning the development, testing, and marketing of Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant Xtend seeds and three dicamba herbicides – XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan2 – as well as allegations of injury from the use of those herbicides, either alone or in conjunction with the Xtend seeds,” the panel wrote in February 2018.
Lawyers anticipate more farmers who have been affected by dicamba herbicides to file lawsuits in the coming months. Those who have suffered financial losses from dicamba drift are encouraged to contact an attorney to find out more.
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