Bill Bader sued the companies after thousands of his fruit trees were damaged by the herbicide dicamba, which drifted in from cotton fields nearby that had been planted with dicamba-resistant seeds made by BASF and Bayer.
Bader’s peach farm is said to be one of the biggest in Missouri, producing 5 million pounds of peaches each year. Lab tests that were carried out by state agricultural officials confirmed symptoms of dicamba, and the farmer incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales due to damaged trees. The award consisted of $15 million in damages for the losses to his crops and $250 million in punitive damages.
This could be just the beginning of a slew of similar suits over dicamba. The Bader Farms case was the first one to go to trial, and roughly 35 similar suits seeking damages are already underway in states like Illinois and Arkansas. XTendiMax and other dicamba herbicides have been blamed by farmers and weed scientists in recent years for damage to millions of acres of crops like soybeans.
Bayer plans to appeal the verdict, and they maintain that dicamba is a useful tool for farmers when it is used safely. BASF is also considering its legal options. The three-week trial was the nation’s first to rule on dicamba drift. Other lawsuits are in the works claiming failure to warn and negligent design against Bayer and BASF, both of which were found equally liable for damages by the jury in this case.
The lawsuit argued that dicamba is so potent that the trees will never be able to recover from their exposure to it. Dicamba was originally developed and sold by Monsanto, which was since purchased by Bayer for $63 billion in 2018. Dicamba becomes a vapor that can drift for miles when it’s used under certain weather conditions. When Monsanto developed a strain of cotton and soybeans that resist dicamba, it led to widespread use of the chemicals and the subsequent crop damage that comes with its use.
Bayer is also currently in the process of settling tens of thousands of lawsuits related to cancer caused by Roundup exposure, another herbicide produced by Monsanto. In one case, a jury awarded a California couple with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma $2 billion, which was later reduced by a judge to $87 million. On that occasion, a judge said the evidence supported the finding that the firm knew that glyphosate was dangerous and failed to warn people.
In another case, a San Francisco jury awarded a former school groundskeeper $289 million, which was later reduced by a judge to $78.5 million, while a federal court jury awarded another cancer patient $80 million, which was later reduced to $25.2 million. A further 13,000 plaintiffs have similar suits pending.
Bayer will also go to trial next month in the first of what will be thousands of lawsuits alleging the company hid safety risks related to its Essure birth control device. They’re also fighting suits by several cities alleging that Monsanto contaminated their waterways with chemicals known as PCBs.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said they will decide by year’s end if farmers will continue to be allowed to spray dicamba herbicides on crops given its drift potential, but for many farmers, it’s already too late.
Sources for this article include: