Missouri attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto claiming the company sold seeds without a safe corresponding herbicide, forcing farmers to spray illegal chemicals that drifted onto other farms and destroyed crops.
The complaint alleges that Monsanto marketed its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds to farmers without a safe herbicide, forcing farmers to either “apply dicamba on crops designed to resist dicamba and kill off super weeds” or watch their crops fail.
The spraying of dicamba, which the suit describes as “a drift-prone herbicide that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the United States,” is illegal. Dicamba is “extremely toxic to virtually all broadleaf plants” including fruits, nuts and vegetables, the suit said. It is especially toxic to soybeans and cotton.
A statement provided by Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord called the lawsuit “baseless” and said it “seeks an unprecedented expansion of the law by attempting to impose liability on a company that did not make the product that allegedly caused the damage, did not sell the product that allegedly caused the damage, and, in fact, warned against the very use of the product alleged in the complaint.”
“If any of the damage alleged in the complaint was actually caused by use of the non-Monsanto herbicide product over Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, that use was illegal and performed by third parties over whom Monsanto has no control,” the statement continues. “This suit is simply an attempt to shift responsibility away from individuals who knowingly and intentionally broke state and federal law and harmed their neighbors in the process.”
Attorneys from Kansas City firm Randles & Splittgerber filed the suit last month and Monsanto was served Tuesday, according to court files.
“It was important for us to file this, quite frankly, because the more we learned about this, the more smaller famers contacted us directly or indirectly wondering if could see some sort of redress for damages they suffered,” said Bev Randles, of Randles & Splittgerber. “We were worried smaller famers were going to be left out in the cold.”
Lord said other herbicides are approved for use with Xtend seeds.
“Moreover, before, during and after farmers purchased their seed, Monsanto took many steps to warn growers, dealers and applicators that dicamba was not approved for in-crop use. Simply put, Monsanto does not condone or encourage the illegal use of any pesticide,” she said.
The suit is filed on behalf of Steven and Deloris “Dee” Landers, who have operated family owned farms in New Madrid County and have been in business since 1976, as well as similarly affected farmers in 10 states.
States included are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
“These are states we know for certain have experienced dicamba or farmers have been affected by the dicamba spray,” Randles said.
The suit is similar to one Randles & Splittgerber filed in December on behalf of a peach farm in southeast Missouri. It was the first known lawsuit over illegal dicamba spraying to protect Xtend cotton and soybean seeds, the firm said.
Randles said the firm had “certainly heard some things” prior to that suit being filed, but after that “more and more people were interested” in being part of legal action.
Since it’s still early, Randles said it’s hard to say exactly how many farmers will be involved in the class action but the firm is anticipating hundreds will participate.
The case is Steven W. Landers, et al v. Monsanto Company, 1:17-cv-00020