The lawsuits against chemical technology giant Monsanto are multiplying fast these days. Not only is there a class-action lawsuit1 claiming the company’s best-selling herbicide Roundup caused Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in hundreds of plaintiffs2,3 — the outcome of which might influence Bayer’s decision to acquire Monsanto or back out of the deal — farmers are also ganging together to sue Monsanto over crop damage caused by its latest dicamba-containing herbicide.
As feared by many critics, any crop that is not genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to dicamba is severely damaged by even small amounts of the herbicide — be it food crops, gardens or trees; even other GE crops resistant to herbicides other than dicamba will shrivel and die in its presence. Monsanto promised the XtendiMax with VaporGrip formula is engineered to be less volatile and prone to drift, but real-life effects suggest otherwise.
Dicamba Is an Indiscriminate Plant Killer
In July, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported investigating two dozen complaints involving dicamba damage caused by drift.4 As of late September, 368 complaints had been filed in Illinois,5 and Iowa had received 258 reports — a “record number” — by early September.6
Farmers in Arkansas are reporting the same problem. In October 2016, a soybean farmer named Mike Wallace was shot to death in a dispute over dicamba damage caused by drift from a neighboring farm growing dicamba-resistant soy. The damage is so extensive, a number of states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi, imposed temporary bans on the use of dicamba-containing pesticides this past summer.7 As reported by Star Tribune:8
“Losses blamed on accidental chemical damage could climb into the tens of millions of dollars, if not higher, and may have a ripple effect on other products that rely on soybeans, including chicken. The number of complaints ‘far exceeds anything we've ever seen,’ Arkansas Plant Board Director Terry Walker recently told lawmakers.”
More Than 3 Million Acres Damaged by Next-Gen Herbicide
According to The New York Times, 25 million acres of dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton were planted this year, and Monsanto has its sights set on expanding that to 40 million acres in 2018. Hailed as “the answer” to growing glyphosate resistance9 (thanks to its excessive use on Roundup Ready, i.e., glyphosate-resistant crops), dicamba-resistant plants have quickly turned into a nightmare for those who plant them, and their neighbors:10
“’I’m a fan of Monsanto. I’ve bought a lot of their products,’ said Brad Williams, a Missouri farmer. ‘I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that there would be some kind of evil nefarious plot to put a defective product out there intentionally.’
Yet he has been dismayed both by damage to his soybean crops, which were within a wide area of farmland harmed by dicamba, and by the impact even to trees on his property. Leaves, he said, were ‘so deformed you couldn’t even really identify the differences between them.’”
So far, more than 3 million acres have been damaged by dicamba.11 Speaking with Ohio Valley Resource,12 Kentucky soybean farmer Jacob Goodman compares dicamba drift to “chemical arson” — a reference to the fact that affected plants will curl and shrivel from the chemical burns. He also notes that drift from neighboring farms growing dicamba-resistant crops is making it exceptionally difficult for non-dicamba farms to plan their production.
“Not only can we not tell the amount of crop that we can get at the end of the year, but we can’t price the market ahead in advance and make contracts because we don’t want to over-book and not be able to deliver this fall, because we have to pay the difference.”
Arkansas farmer Kenneth Qualls told The New York Times, “’It’s really divided the farming community … Some of these people who got victimized by this product are probably going to go out of business because of it. They’ll have to put up their equipment for auction, and the people bidding on it will be the ones who put them out of business.”