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February 05, 2018 05:08 PM

Farmers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Herbicide Manufacturers

The use of Dicamba has resulted in an estimated 3.6 million acres of damage to crops in 20 states, including South Dakota.

Unintended damage to crops that were sprayed with Dicamba got so bad last summer that Missouri and Arkansas both banned the use of the herbicide and Arkansas isn't allowing it during the 2018 growing season. 

Even so, Monsanto tells us that the number of acres of Dicamba resistant soybeans that will be planted in 2018 will double to 40 million acres.

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of farmers in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas claims that the goal all along by big chemical companies was to gain a monopoly on the market.

The class action lawsuit alleges that manufacturers knew that Dicamba damage would occur for years. 

"It's not a secret.  Monsanto was warned for a long time about this," Missouri attorney Paul Lesko said.

Weed scientists did warn of Dicamba Drift.

"Dicamba behaved in a manner that did not surprise me, but what surprised me again was the scale and scope of the impact," University of Minnesota weed scientist Jeff Gunsolus said. 

But Monsanto says the impact has been overly exaggerated, and even for the soybeans that showed the obvious signs of Dicamba damage --curled leaves-- the crops were fine. 

"In the vast majority of the instances it has not and the fields have actually grown out and we have a number of growers telling us, the majority of them telling us, not only has the field grown out, but they're seeing record yields," Scott Partridge of Monsanto said.

Monsanto says the new EPA label making Dicamba a restricted herbicide, along with additional training for those applying Dicamba products, will prevent problems next year.

"The good news is all of these things are correctable by training and education," Partridge said.

The class action suit claims that "damage due to volatility is not due to applicator error or failure to follow instructions/labels.  It arises due a defect with the product."  

"If there's additional training, that's fine, but you can't train to get rid of volatility.  That's a problem with the product and you have to fix the product to get rid of that," Lesko said.

The lawsuit alleges Monsanto agreed to "a legal, ethical and moral obligation to release only safe and environmentally responsible products.”

"We take our stewardship obligation very seriously. That's an allegation by lawyers who are in this for a profit and I disagree with that completely," Partridge said.

"Under their theory of how this case is--across all the states where this happened, all these farmers must have lost ability to read or despite all these years of not having as much Dicamba damage--all do it right now.  And that just doesn't make sense because it's across so many states where this is happening," Lesko said.

Lesko also questions why Monsanto didn't stop the sale of Dicamba resistant soybean seed to farmers who they know caused damage to neighboring fields.  

All the Dicamba lawsuits from various states against the manufacturers have been consolidated in St. Louis and Lesko expects some South Dakota farmers to join in.




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