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Federal Suit Alleges Companies Knew Dicamba Would Drift, Monsanto Created Monopoly

Farmers in a federal class-action lawsuit filed two main complaints this week against agro-chemical giants Monsanto and BASF regarding the herbicide dicamba, which is blamed for millions of acres of crop damage, especially to soybeans, over the last couple years.

The “master complaints,” filed in a U.S. district court in St. Louis, consolidate 11 complaintsfrom farmers from Arkansas to South Dakota.  

The lawsuit alleges Monsanto and BASF created dicamba-resistant crops knowing it would likely cause harm to other fields. It states that the companies not only knew about the risk, “but everything they did and failed to do increased that risk.”

Larry Steckel, an extension weed specialist at the University of Tennessee, said in the court filings following the labels is “a Herculean task.”

“It looks good on paper, but when a farmer or applicator is trying to actually execute that over thousands of acres covering several counties, it's almost impossible,” he said.

The second complaint alleges that Monsanto is creating a monopoly off of dicamba-resistant plants.

Monsanto didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. BASF said the filing of these consolidated cases was a “procedural matter” and was expected.

Don Downing, a lead attorney for the farmers in the case, had strong words about his clients’ second complaint.

“[They’re] commercializing a product that literally destroys its competition. We believe that’s a violation of the federal antitrust laws,” he said.

Downing said the goal is to get a settlement for everyone with proof they’ve been affected by dicamba drift. The downside is that he doesn’t believe the lawsuit will be settled until 2020.

These filings come in the wake of a July report from the University of Missouri that shows 1.1 million acres of crops have seen potential dicamba damage this year, down from 3.6 million reported acres of damage last year. States jumped into action after last growing season, restricting the times during which farmers could spray dicamba; Arkansas banned it entirely.

Farmers involved in the lawsuit come from Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Follow Madelyn on Twitter: @MadelynBeck8

Copyright 2020 Harvest Public Media. To see more, visit .

Madelyn Beck is a reporter based in Galesburg, Illinois. She covers agriculture, food and rural issues for Harvest Public Media and the Illinois Newsroom.
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