Monsanto

Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Farmers in a federal class-action lawsuit filed two main complaints this week against agro-chemical giants Monsanto and BASF regarding the herbicide dicamba, which is blamed for millions of acres of crop damage, especially to soybeans, over the last couple years.

Writing that "a reasonable jury could conclude" that the herbicide in Monsanto's Roundup can cause a form of cancer, a federal judge says liability lawsuits against the company should proceed, siding with plaintiffs against an effort to quash the litigation. But the judge also said some of the expert opinions presented so far in the case are "shaky."

The lawsuits allege that glyphosate, the herbicide in the widely used Roundup, can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma — and that Monsanto didn't warn consumers or regulators about that alleged risk.

Monsanto, a company based in St. Louis for more than 100 years, is now part of Bayer.

The roughly $63-billion acquisition closed Thursday, nearly two years after the companies first announced the deal. Regulators in Canada and Mexico were among the last international watchdogs to approve the combination.

The U.S. Department of Justice signed off on it late last month after Bayer committed to shedding about $9 billion in several areas to chemical giant BASF.

That includes Bayer's Liberty-brand herbicides, which compete with Monsanto's Roundup.

Originally, it was just a name — Olga Monsanto's name, to be precise.

Around the turn of the 20th century, she married a man named John Francis Queeny. He named his artificial sweetener company after her. And over decades, that company expanded from the sweetness business into agri-chemicals, where it began to dominate the industry.

Dicamba-resistant soybeans sit in a field in rural McLean County, Illinois, in August.
Darrell Hoemann / File/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Lawsuits filed in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri against the makers of the herbicide dicamba will be centralized in the federal court in St. Louis.

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Ligitation decided Thursday to centralize the 11 cases, which allege the herbicide caused significant damage to soybean crops. 

A soybean field in Jasper County, Iowa, in 2016
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Regulators in Arkansas have proposed to effectively ban farmers from using a controversial weedkiller produced by Monsanto that is thought to be destroying crops after drifting in the wind.

The Arkansas State Plant Board proposed a ban on using the herbicide dicamba on cotton and soybeans from April 16 to October 31, essentially the entire growing season. (PDF)

Genetically engineered cotton seeds delivered to Missouri farmers in 2015 featured a warning not to spray them with dicamba. The corresponding dicamba herbicide was not approved by regulators until 2017.
File: Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

The herbicide dicamba is thought to have been the culprit in more than 3 million acres of damaged soybeans across the country, destroying plants and leaving farmers out millions of dollars in crops.

The chemical has been in use for decades, so why is it today apparently causing farms so much damage?

A soybean field in Jasper County, Iowa, in 2016
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hundreds of Midwest farmers are complaining of damage to their crops allegedly caused by the herbicide dicamba. The total number of damaged acres may come to more than 2.5 million acres, according to data compiled by a University of Missouri researcher.

Most of the damage has been found in the Midwest and South, with complaints of more than 850,000 damaged acres in Arkansas and more than 300,000 damaged acres in both Missouri and Illinois.

An Iowa soybean harvest
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The Missouri Department of Agriculture announced a temporary ban on the sale of agricultural products containing the pesticide dicamba on Friday, following a similar step by regulators in Arkansas.

Roundup, the Monsanto brand-name pesticide built on the chemical glyphosate, is used on farm fields and on lawns and gardens.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

After court documents unsealed Tuesday raised questions about its research methods, chemical giant Monsanto says it did not ghostwrite a 2000 study on the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in its flagship pesticide Roundup.

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