Bayer and BASF Lose $265 Million Dicamba Case

US Jury finds the two producers equally liable

18.02.2020 -

A jury in the US state of Missouri has ordered Bayer and BASF to pay the state’s largest peach grower a total of $265 million for damage he claims was caused by drifts from their dicamba-based herbicides. The jurors found the two producers equally liable.

The award to Bill Bader, owner of Bader Farms, located in southern Missouri, consisted of $15 million in actual damage and $250 million in punitive damages. The grower claimed that his 1,000 acre (roughly 405 hectare) orchard was irreparably harmed by the herbicide, having lost many fruit trees since 2015 when the herbicides began to be used on nearby soybean and cotton farms.

The three-week trial just ended was the first dicamba case to be heard against the two German agrochemical groups in the US as well as being the first to be heard there altogether.  An estimated 140 lawsuits – a very small number compared with the nearly 43,000 cases Bayer faces with Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup – are currently pending against the producers.

Other lawsuits against Bayer and BASF are expected to be heard later this year, by the same Missouri judge, with many of them and argued by the same attorney whose firm represented Bader.

Both companies have said they will appeal the current verdict. “We believe the evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Monsanto’s products were not responsible for the losses,” Bayer said. US press reports noted that both producers were expecting the court losses and had made provisions to defend new lawsuits. 

Bayer acquired a dicamba product with its takeover of Monsanto but already had a formulation in its portfolio. BASF is also a traditional producer, along with DuPont, whose agriculture business was merged with that of Dow and now trades as Corteva.

In 2107, BASF inaugurated a new $270 million world-scale production complex for dicamba-based Engenia brand herbicide at its Beaumont, Texas complex. A year earlier Monsanto’s board of directors approved an investment of $975 million to expand production of dicamba benzoic acid at Luling, Louisiana.

Many American farmers have claimed that drift from dicamba-based herbicides has damaged their non–genetically modified crops and other plants that have no protection against the herbicide active ingredients. All three producers said earlier they had developed products with less drift.

Like glyphosate, dicamba also has long been eyed critically.  Several US states, including Missouri, have placed restrictions on the herbicide ingredient. Arkansas banned its in-crop use from April to October 2018 after the state’s plant board received nearly 1,000 complaints of crop damage.

At the start of November 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overturned the Arkansas ban after complaints from soy and cotton growers – including a lawsuit by Monsanto – that the pigweed clogging their fields had become resistant to all other approved herbicides. The agency required, however, that in-crop use cease 45 days after planting for soybeans and 60 days after planting for cotton.