Thursday, February 07, 2019

Farmers sue Monsanto, allege dicamba-resistant soybean seeds violate antitrust laws; fear makes some buy

A new lawsuit claims that Monsanto, now owned by German firm Bayer, violated antitrust laws when it began selling a new kind of soybean seeds.

The seeds, which go by the brand name Xtend, have been genetically modified to survive after being sprayed with the controversial herbicide dicamba. "In just the past three years, Xtend soybeans have taken over 60 to 75 percent of the American soybean market," Dan Charles reports for NPR. "But some farmers say they're buying these seeds partly out of fear."

Though farmers say they bought the seeds to produce bigger harvests and keep their soybean fields free of weeds, many also say they bought them because they had no choice. Dicamba is notorious for vaporizing and blowing onto neighbors' fields, so when one farmer begins using the herbicide, surrounding farmers may feel like they have to comply or see their own soybean crops damaged, and some farmers say Monsanto salespeople are using that fear as a sales tool, Charles reports.

"Several law firms now have filed a lawsuit on behalf of farmers against Monsanto, arguing that the company violated antitrust law by selling dicamba-tolerant seeds. The lawsuit claims that the company understood that the risk of drifting dicamba could drive competitors out of the market," Charles reports.

Though Bayer declined an interview request from NPR, its public statements insist that dicamba will not harm neighboring crops if used correctly, and points out that reports of dicamba damage dropped last year after it and other organizations held training sessions for farmers. "The company's critics, though, say fewer crops are getting damaged in part because so many farmers have decided to buy Bayer's product: crops that dicamba can't harm," Charles reports.

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