Companies Guilty of Ecological Disaster Conspiracy
(Feb. 17, 2020) A jury awarded $265 million last week in a dicamba trial against Monsanto and BASF. The award went to a family whose peach farm was destroyed by Monsanto / BASF pesticide. After a three-week trial, the jury awarded a peach-farmer plaintiff $15 million in damages and $250 million in punitive damages against the chemical companies.
On Feb. 14, a federal jury in Missouri determined that German giants Bayer (which now owns Monsanto) and BASF will have to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms. Bill and Denise Bader owned the largest peach farm in Missouri, before Monsanto and BASF destroyed it with dicamba products.
Bill Bader testified that his family farm is going out of business because of damage incurred by dicamba herbicides. Mr. Bader never used dicamba himself. The wind delivered the poison to his peach trees free of charge from neighboring fields, which had been sprayed with it. Dicamba harmed his family’s 1,000 acres of peach orchards.
The jury ruled that both Monsanto and BASF acted negligently. The $15 million jury award was for both actual damages and for future losses, because Dicamba virtually destroyed the Bader’s orchard forever.
Bayer and BASF will need to determine their shared liability of the $265 million in damages.
Since 2015, farmers who manage millions of acres of crops have been filing suit against Monsanto and BASF over alleged dicamba damage. The Baders’ lawsuit is the first of hundreds to go to trial, and there has also been a class action suit filed against Monsanto and BASF for dicamba destruction.
Bayer said the Bader’s losses were not Bayer’s fault. Bayer also said through a spokesperson that it would appeal the decision (of course).
Bayer’s Retort to the Verdict
Bayer spokeswoman Susan Luke wrote in an email: “Despite the verdict, Bayer stands behind Xtend seed and XtendiMax herbicide products, which enjoy a 95 percent weed-control satisfaction rate from the farmers who use them [nice sound bite, Susan]. We want our customers to know that, as this legal matter continues, we remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering them the effective and sustainable tools they need in the field.”
Sustainable? SUSTAINABLE? The only thing sustainable about chemical farming is chemical company profits, at least until these companies have destroyed all the arable land on earth, so that nothing smart people want to eat grows on it anymore.
Ms. Luke also leaned on chemical industry allies in the federal government: “According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these tools do not pose any unreasonable risk when used according to their EPA-approved label. Monsanto took numerous steps to mitigate, and warn about, potential risks associated with its products. XtendiMax continues to be a valuable tool for growers who need effective options to increase yields and combat resistant weeds.”
The EPA has been shown, time and again, to have a very dubious relationship with Monsanto and the rest of the chemical industry the EPA is supposed to regulate. Internal emails have shown a cozy relationship between the regulator and those corporations whose products it is supposed to regulate, as the unfolding chlorpyrifos tragedy demonstrates. Those too-cozy relationships surfaced during legal discovery in recent Monsanto Roundup lawsuits.
A BASF spokeswoman, Odessa Patricia Hines, also said her company was “disappointed” with the trial outcome and would be “looking at our post-trial options.”
Ms. Hines said, “Dicamba based herbicides (are) critically important tools for growers battling resistant weeds in their soybean and cotton fields. The evidence revealed that we formulated our dicamba product to significantly reduce off-target movement and conducted extensive testing before receiving EPA approval to market Engenia herbicide in 2017.”
Business As Usual
Ms. Hines added that BASF will continue to provide training and work with “academics, NGOs, and state and federal agencies to address any concerns they may have regarding off target movement.”
Evidence of Harm Known by Monsanto
Bader Farms’ lawyers showed the jury more than 180 internal company documents from the chemical companies. They included projections that thousands of farmers would complain about the system. Emails in evidence showed that Monsanto denied academics the ability to test their products.
Poison One to Poison All
Internal Monsanto and BASF emails also showed the companies’ projections and strategies that said farmers would buy dicamba-resistant seeds in order to protect themselves. Such planning could be called extortion, and Americans can only wonder how such behavior could be legal or protected by any court of law in a sane and fair world.
Bader Farms’ harvest averaged 162,000 bushels in the early 2000s, then went as low as 12,000 bushels in 2018. Bader Farms, which says it will now go out of business, sued for $20.9 million.
Bayer BASF Conspiracy
BASF and Bayer blame the crop damage on farmers making illegal applications, weather events, disease, and other issues. Despite the internal emails which surmised surrounding farmers would be forced to buy Dicamba products in order to protect their own crops from Dicamba damage. Bayer and BASF denied that they engaged in a joint venture or conspiracy to release the products.
“Do you really think tomorrow they’re gonna’ stop destroying farms for their own profit?,” said the Bader’s lawyer. “Do you really think they’re gonna’ change their whole business model?”
Chemical Farming (Poisoning) begets More Chemical Farming
Because more and more weeds developed a resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup (made with the great red herring glyphosate), Monsanto developed genetically engineered (GE or GM) soybean and cotton seeds that could withstand being drenched with dicamba. This highly volatile weed killer is traditionally used on corn. It is also sprayed on fields prior to growing season.
Monsanto released dicamba-related (GM) cotton seeds in 2015 and GM soybean seeds in 2016, but without the accompanying herbicides. Many farmers illegally sprayed dicamba in those years, Monsanto alleged, harming Bader Farms peach crops and other farmers.
Dicamba Damage Complaints in 2017
Dicamba damage complaints increased in 2017, when the chemical companies released their new so-called herbicides (which EPA classifies as pesticides). Dicamba damaged at least 3.6 million acres, according to an estimate by Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri professor. Damage complaints increased in 2018 and 2019 in some states, including in Illinois, the largest soybean producing state in the country.
Monsanto, BASF Guilty of Negligence, Conspiracy
The jury found Monsanto negligent in releasing the dicamba-tolerant seeds without the herbicide. The jury also found Monsanto and BASF negligent in releasing new versions of dicamba that the companies advertised as less likely to move off-target. They, too, moved off-target, damaging Bader Farms’ peach trees.
Ecological Disaster Conspiracy
The jury also found Monsanto and BASF engaged in a “conspiracy to create an ecological disaster to increase profits.”
The jury assessed punitive damages for Monsanto releasing its dicamba-tolerant seeds onto the market in 2015 and 2016 without an accompanying herbicide. However, since the jury determined BASF and Monsanto engaged in a joint venture, both parties are responsible.