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Reid Smeda, a professor of plant sciences, speaks about dicamba to a group of Missouri farmers on August 5, 2014. (Photo: Mizzou CAFNR//flickr/cc)

'Just the Beginning': Appeals Court Affirms Pesticide Giants Liable for Dicamba Drift

"The destruction to Bader's orchards provides just a single example of the widespread harm inflicted on thousands of farmers and the environment from Monsanto's negligence and EPA's refusal to cancel its dicamba approval."

Brett Wilkins

An advocacy group on Thursday welcomed an appeals court ruling that, while tossing out a $60 million award to a Missouri peach farmer whose trees were killed by the herbicide dicamba, did not challenge a federal jury's 2020 verdict that the weedkiller's manufacturers are responsible.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis ruled that chemical giants Monsanto—acquired by Bayer AG in 2018—and BASF are liable for damage to Bill Bader's peach groves caused by dicamba, leaving in place a $15 million judgment for nonpunitive damages.

However, the court ordered a new trial to determine punitive damages to be assessed against each company separately. Punitive damages worth $60 million, a reduction from the jury's original award of $250 million, were dismissed pending the new trial.

"The appeals court correctly held Monsanto and BASF responsible for unprecedented damage to Bader's peach orchard from dicamba drift. But this is just the beginning," said Meredith Stevenson, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group that filed an amicus brief in support of Bader.

"The destruction to Bader's orchards provides just a single example of the widespread harm inflicted on thousands of farmers and the environment from Monsanto's negligence and EPA's refusal to cancel its dicamba approval," she added. "We will continue to fight to prevent continued harm to millions of acres of cropland, hundreds of endangered species, parks, wildlife refuges, and other natural areas from dicamba."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

Bader's lawsuit, one of more than 100 similar lawsuits over dicamba, went to trial in early 2020. Bayer in June 2020 announced that it would pay up to $400 million to settle the remaining dicamba lawsuits.

Bader, who operates Missouri’s largest peach orchard near the Arkansas border, said many trees were killed when dicamba drifted onto his property from nearby soybean and cotton farms...

Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer, began selling dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton seeds it developed in 2015 and 2016, respectively, leading to an explosion of dicamba use, Bader and other farmers have said.

A report published last year by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that during the administration of former President Donald Trump, high-ranking officials intentionally excluded scientific evidence of dicamba-related hazards, including the risk of widespread drift damage, before reapproving the dangerous chemical.

Another 2021 EPA report described the widespread harm to farmers and the environment caused by dicamba during last year's growing season.

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