Herbicides | St. Louis Public Radio

Herbicides

Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

CAPE GIRARDEAU — A federal jury in the first dicamba-related lawsuit to go to trial determined Saturday that Monsanto and BASF should pay $250 million in punitive damages.

That’s more than the $200 million suggested by lawyers working for the plaintiff, Bader Farms. 

Missouri’s largest peach producer, owned by Bill and Denise Bader, sued the ag giants for causing extensive dicamba damage to its orchards.

Sign at the main entrance to the old Monsanto headquarters reads Bayer Crop Sciences as of August 21, 2018
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Bayer AG announced today that its researchers have discovered a molecule that it could use to develop new herbicide products. 

The biotech company is conducting field tests of the compound, which it hasn’t yet named. It’s been 30 years since scientists have developed an herbicide molecule, largely due to a lengthy regulatory process and the widespread use of Monsanto’s Roundup, which contains the molecule glyphosate.

Every summer for the past three years, the phones have been ringing like crazy in the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. Farmers and homeowners were calling, complaining that their soybean fields or tomato plants looked sick, with curled-up leaves. They suspected pesticides from nearby farms — a kind of chemical hit-and-run.

It was up to investigators like Andy Roth to find the true culprit.

Dicamba graphic
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Five years ago, the owner of Missouri’s largest peach farm started noticing damage to his orchard. A year later, Bader Farms estimated a loss of more than 30,000 trees. 

A lawsuit filed by the farm in 2016 alleges Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, and herbicide maker BASF Corp. are to blame because the weed killer drifted from other fields. Both companies deny the allegations.

That suit, which seeks $21 million in damages, will be heard in federal court starting Monday in Cape Girardeau. It will be the first of several dicamba-related suits against the corporations to go to trial.

Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States.
Mike Mozart |Flickr

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, is manufactured by Monsanto-Bayer. Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either a safe, highly effective herbicide, or it’s a dangerous substance linked to cancer cases from use by farmers and landscapers.

Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with author Carey Gillam, who will give a presentation Friday at Washington University titled “Monsanto Trials and Monsanto Papers.” Gillam has investigated the topic of agrochemical safety and corporate interests for more than 20 years.

Updated at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 with a correction — A southeastern Missouri cotton and soybean farmer has the distinction of being the first person in the United States to face federal charges over alleged dicamba misuse.

Monsanto is expected to keep a large operation in the St. Louis region after the Bayer buyout goes into effect.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:30 p.m. July 13 with comment from Monsanto — Farmers can resume using the herbicide dicamba, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The new restrictions come less than a week after the department issued a temporary ban on the sale and use of the controversial herbicide. Missouri has received more than 100 complaints this year of drifting herbicide, which had damaged crops.

Gov. Eric Greitens signs a bill. (20170
Courtesy of Office of Gov. Eric Greitens

Updated March 31, 2017 – Stiffer penalties are now in place for anyone who misuses dicamba and other herbicides in Missouri.

Governor Eric Greitens signed House Bill 662 into law Thursday, but also held an official signing ceremony Friday at the University of Missouri’s Fisher Delta Center in Portageville, which conducts agricultural research in the Bootheel region.

Photo of a farm.
File Photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Missouri lawmakers continue to follow reports of illegal spraying of crops in the Bootheel region.

So far, 124 complaints have been made of people using an outdated version of the herbicide dicamba. Investigators from the Missouri Department of Agriculture have been looking into the complaints over the past few months.

Flickr/Nate Steiner

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is warning consumers about a pesticide telemarketing scam.

Farmers, gardeners and others have received phone calls from salespeople claiming to offer high quality herbicides at below market prices.

The products have turned out not to be properly registered or labeled.

An agriculture department spokesperson declined to say what exactly was in the purchased products, what company ― or companies ― are involved in the scam, or whether the fraud extends to other states.