Missouri’s largest peach grower sues Monsanto for damages over pesticide drift
(NaturalHealth365) Finally, someone has stepped forward to hold Monsanto – the most hated corporation in the world – legally responsible for the crop devastation caused by drifting of its toxic herbicide. A Missouri peach grower has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, claiming that illegal use of the herbicide dicamba caused extensive damage to his peach trees – along with millions of dollars in losses.
The plaintiff, Bill Bader of Bader Farms in Campbell, Missouri, alleges that dicamba – illegally sprayed over crops of GMO cotton and soy in the area – drifted onto his peach orchards, causing the loss of more than 7,000 peach trees in 2015 alone, and representing $1.5 million in losses. In 2016, Bader added, the situation worsened – the farm lost over 30,000 trees, with losses estimated in the millions.
And the damage is not confined to Bader’s peach crop; he states that up to 500 farmers in the region have been affected. Without compensation, Bader estimates, 60 percent will have to go out of business within two years.
Courage fighting Monsanto: This lawsuit is the first of its kind
The lawsuit, filed in Dunklin County, MO., in November 2016, is the first to claim damages against Monsanto for devastation to non-GMO crops resulting from the illegal spraying of dicamba on genetically modified soy and cotton crops.
Although it is the first suit to be filed, it is almost definitely not the last. A representative for the law firm representing Bader said that similar lawsuits from area farmers are expected to follow.
Dicamba suspected of damaging crops throughout the heartland
Dicamba, also known as diglycolamine salt, is an older herbicide meant to target weeds such as bindweed, milkweed, ragweed and dandelion. It is considered extremely volatile, and is subject to “drift,” a phenomenon in which a pesticide can be picked up by the wind and delivered to neighboring properties.
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Dicamba is suspected of causing widespread damage to “non-target” crops in ten different states across the nation’s farm belt. This is outrageous: where are the local politicians on this issue? (Plus, do you notice how quiet the media is about this?!)
Lawsuit targets irresponsible and premature release of genetically modified seeds
At the heart of the lawsuit is the accusation that Monsanto knowingly marketed and sold a dicamba-tolerant soybean – called Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean — to growers in 2016, and a dicamba-tolerant cotton seed – designated Bollgard XtendFlex cotton – in 2015, all before getting federal approval for the herbicide intended to be used on them.
‘Greed over public safety:’ The mantra of corporate giants like Monsanto.
“Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated,” says Bev Randles of Randles and Splittgerber, the law firm representing Bader Farms. Randles adds that it is against industry standards – and indeed, against Monsanto’s own protocol – to release a seed without a corresponding herbicide to protect the crop from destruction. By doing so, Randles says Monsanto chose greed over public safety.
“Low-drift” version of dicamba not yet available
XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, the herbicide meant to accompany the GMO seeds, only received EPA approval a few months ago. Intended to target “superweeds” that have become impervious to glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – and also intended to be less volatile and subject to drift, XtendiMax has not yet been approved by individual states, and won’t even be on the market before next year’s growing season.
In the meantime, many growers of the Monsanto-produced GMO crops sought protection against weeds by illegally applying an older, third-party, drift-prone version of dicamba – which Monsanto insists they were warned against using.
Hence the problem – while Monsanto’s crops are genetically engineered to tolerate dicamba, non-GMO crops in neighboring farms and fields – including tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon, rice, peas, peaches and non-GMO cotton and soy – are not, and can be greatly damaged.
Monsanto cries “foul,” dodges blame
Monsanto’s response to the lawsuit is to point the finger at the neighboring farmers, saying that the individual growers, dealers and applicators who refused to heed warnings – and sprayed older versions of dicamba to control weeds – are to blame for the disaster.
With his lawsuit, Bill Bader is pointing the finger squarely back at Monsanto, where he says it belongs. “We need to go after Monsanto,” said Bader. “These farmers are being hung out to dry.”
“Low-drift” clearly does not mean “no-drift”
Even though ExtendiMax is purported to be “low drift,” the product label clearly states that ExtendiMax may cause damage to desirable trees and plants, particularly “non-Roundup Ready 2 Xtend fruit trees and broadleaf plants, particularly in their development and growing stage.”
The EPA has released explicit and detailed instructions on the application of ExtendiMax, warning it is meant to be applied only when chance of drift is “minimal.” Other instructions warn against applying it from an aircraft, or when wind speed exceeds 15 mph. Proper application of XtendiMax also involves specific Monsanto-manufactured nozzles and the use of buffer zones – if this herbicide were truly “low-drift,” would these warnings even be necessary?
Meanwhile, stronger and stronger pesticides continue to be developed in response to glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” – to the disgust of environmentalists and natural health experts.
“We can’t spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill,” stated Nathan Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. Donley went on to warn that “fighting evolution” was a “losing strategy.”
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, it is the environment – as well as the farmers who try to raise non-GMO crops in the vicinity of dicambra-resistant crops – that is emerging as the real loser in this scenario.
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