Bayer and BASF lose first dicamba weedkiller trial in USA

A jury has awarded US$265M to a Missouri peach grower in his lawsuit against herbicide producers Bayer and BASF in the first US case on dicamba-based weedkillers, with at least 140 similar cases due before the courts later this year, Reuters reports.

Bill Bader, Missouri’s largest peach farmer, sued the two German chemical firms, alleging that repeated dicamba exposure drifting from nearby soyabean and cotton farms killed or weakened the fruit trees on his 1,000-acre orchard, beginning in 2015, Reuters said on 16 February.

A jury in the US District Court in Cape Girardeau awarded Bader US$15M in actual damages and US$25M in punitive damages, with Bayer and BASF equally liable for them.

Bayer is already facing around 42,700 cancer lawsuits in the USA over its Roundup glyphosate-based herbicide, made by US biotech firm Monsanto, which it acquired for US$63 billion in 2018.

Bayer and BASF now faced other dicamba lawsuits that could begin late his year before the same judge in Missouri, according to Bader’s attorney Billy Randles, who was also representing dozens of other plaintiffs with similar claims, Reuters wrote.

“They claim negligent design, failure to warn and all allege a joint venture” [between Bayer and BASF], Randles said.

Both companies said they planned to appeal the verdict, saying dicamba-based herbicides were safe when used as directed.

In October 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency extended dicamba’s registration for two years, but with additional restrictions on the product.

Progressive Farmer wrote at the time that off-target dicamba injury had affected 24 states in 2017, with farmers complaining that dicamba drifted away from where it was sprayed on biotech soyabeans and cotton, to neighbouring plants not genetically engineered to resist it.

The EPA’s restrictions limited dicamba’s availability and use to certified retailers and applicators, with applicators required to keep records showing they had surveyed the surrounding area for susceptible and sensitive crops, Progressive Farmer said. Applications were limited to wind speeds of 3-10 mph and to between sunrise to sunset, effectively banning night-time spraying, when temperature inversions were most likely to occur.