Opinion: In the end, Bayer will pay up over Monsanto dicamba stupidity

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Lawsuits, most of the class action variety, are sprouting up all over the country regarding Monsanto’s rollout of dicamba resistant soybean seeds.

What all these cases have in common is that farmers allege that they have been victimized and suffered losses by what they say is Monsanto’s defective X-tend seed system.

In a nutshell, all the plaintiffs claim back in the 2016 growing season Monsanto rushed to market new dicamba resistant soybean seeds without the necessary complementary dicamba formulation that Monsanto claimed would prevent drift onto adjacent farm fields.

XtendiMax herbicide was held up in Environmental Protection Agency approval, but Monsanto went ahead and sold the seeds anyway.

Farmers say Monsanto should not have sold the seeds because what happened next was oh-so-predictable.  Farmers applied any old dicamba herbicide they could get their hands on with disastrous results.

And when the EPA finally approved XtendiMax herbicide for the 2017 growing season, drift damaged an estimated 3.6 million acres of non-dicamba resistant soybeans on neighboring fields.

Other crops were also impacted to a lesser degree.

A number of the lawsuits also allege that Monsanto encouraged farmers to illegally spray fields with dicamba.

All in all a real train wreck.

Back in 2016 when all this was going down, I blogged that Monsanto needed a win after an number of self-inflicted missteps and the potential sale of the company to Bayer on the horizon.

In hindsight I think that’s even more apparent today.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle heard oral arguments over whether EPA broke the law in conditionally approving  XtendiMax herbicide in 2016 and renewing registration in 2017.

And the hits keep on coming.

Now two of the nation’s largest independent seed dealers, Stine Seed and Beck’s Hybrids are calling on the EPA to place additional limits on the spraying on the heels of a July University of Missouri report estimating that 1.1 million acres of non-resistant soybeans have been damaged this growing season.

Most of the lawsuits in this blog have been consolidated into the Eastern District of Missouri.

  1. What’s the likely fallout of all this?

Bayer, the shiny new owner of Monsanto, is likely on the hook for astronomical fines and penalties if it loses at trial.

Will Bayer roll the dice with the possibility of coming up snake-eyes?  Or will will Bayer, on the hook for potential billions after a California jury found Monsanto weed-killer Roundup and is active ingredient glyphosate causes cancer in humans, cut its losses on the dicamba class action suits and settle?

I think it’s door number two.

Monsanto, in its rush for profits, has given Bayer a weak hand. Bayer needs to read the cards and know when to fold them.

About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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