Bayer-Monsanto is under fire as 57 Texas High Plains wine grape growers have filed a lawsuit against the agrochemical giant.
On June 7, 2021, the suit was filed in Jefferson County District Court. The Plaintiff seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Bayer-Monsanto and BASF for selling a defective seed system containing a highly volatile weedkiller that drifted and crippled scores of vineyards.
The drifting herbicide has damaged up to a devastating 95% of the productive grapevines on dozens of family-owned vineyards covering 3,000 acres near Lubbock since 2015-2016. Bayer-Monsanto and BASF began selling their dicamba-based genetically modified seed system to High Plains cotton growers, whose poison wafted over to the vineyards, decimating their plants.
The volatile nature of the pesticide dicamba means it can travel up to three miles away from where it was sprayed, leaving many dead plants in its wake.
The vineyards are not the first victim of the deadly poison, as many soy farms have also been affected since 2018.
According to a press release, the vineyard owners “saw their highly productive vineyards wither and, in some cases, die as a result of the dicamba-resistant seed system’s use on over two million surrounding acres of cotton.”
Grapevines, unlike some other crops, cannot simply be replanted the following year to produce a similar yield. They take decades to mature and produce the right quality of fruit for some wines.
Devastation is an understatement, as 95% of the vineyard crops need to begin again from the start.
Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first instance of wine grape growers and other farmers losing their crops to the dicamba poison.
Lawsuits have already cost Bayer-Monsanto hundreds of millions of dollars. Another marketer of the devastating chemical, Corteva, recently exited the market entirely.
The latest cases come as Bayer and BASF continue to battle a jury verdict of $265 million (since reduced to $75 million) against them for dicamba damage to a Missouri peach orchard.
Bayer agreed to make $400 million available to resolve multi-district litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, for dicamba injury claims to soybean fields from 2015 to 2020.
That’s still not the end of their legal troubles, as Bayer is the target of four more federal lawsuits against EPA’s most recent re-registration of dicamba herbicides, released in October 2020.
One lawsuit argues that the use of Bayer’s dicamba herbicide (as well as BASF’s Engenia herbicide and Corteva’s FeXapan herbicide) “greatly diminished” the pollen and nectar sources on the landscape “as a result of the drift, volatilization and other spread of the Dicamba herbicides from the fields and crops on which they were applied.”
“As a result of the damage to or eradication of the plants from which the Plaintiffs bees acquired their nectar and pollen, and the resulting reduction in the production of honey by the bees, Plaintiff has sustained loss of sales and income from the sale of honey,” the complaint alleged. “Plaintiff has also sustained the loss of bees through the effects of the Dicamba herbicides on the bees in the reduction in their food supply necessary to support their lives.”
It is unclear if Bayer will halt production of the poison or simply continue to poison and eradicate crops and the livelihoods of their producers and pay out millions of dollars in “hush money” as an apology.