Thursday, February 08, 2018

Lawsuits allege Monsanto forced farmers to buy dicamba-resistant seeds, and that dicamba damaged crops

A North Dakota farm filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Monsanto Co., alleging that farmers are forced to buy its expensive patented dicamba-resistant seed if they don't want their crops to be damaged by dicamba powder drifting from nearby farms.

Forest River Farms' complaint, filed Feb. 1 in Missouri, says "Monsanto’s monopolization and attempted monopolization of the seeds market stymies competition, hurts producers, and harms the public at large," and alleges a class of "all individuals and entities who directly purchased seeds containing Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant trait," Eleanor Tyler reports for Bloomberg Law.

University of Missouri map; click on the image to enlarge it.
Dicamba is a herbicide notoriously prone to vaporizing into a powder and drifting to other fields. A study indicated that it damaged an estimated 3.6 million acres of soybeans in 2017 — about 4 percent of all soybeans planted in the U.S. Several states have banned its sale and use or limited when it can be sprayed. Monsanto responded to widespread complaints by introducing a new version of dicamba it says is less likely to drift. But scientists, who weren't allowed to fully vet the new product before its launch, say it's still too volatile. The new product will be available in 33 states in 2018, and on Feb. 1 Monsanto announced it will provide free mandatory training sessions for farmers on the use of dicamba in 26 of those states.

Also on Feb. 1 a federal judicial panel consolidated nine lawsuits against Monsanto filed in four states, all alleging crop damage from dicamba, into the same eastern Missouri court where the Forest River Farms suit was filed. "Those cases allege that Monsanto marketed dicamba-resistant seeds knowing that would tempt farmers to use dicamba — which has proven destructive to neighboring crops — before Monsanto had regulatory approval to market its low-drift version of the pesticide," Tyler reports.

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