Agricultural giant Monsanto and German chemical maker BASF were aware that their new agricultural seed and chemical system would most likely cause damage to U.S. farms, internal documents show.
These documents have been discovered via a lawsuit by a Missouri farmer who is suing the companies for damage to his peach orchard. The farmer has been awarded $265 million.
According to The Guardian, the new crop system developed by Monsanto and BASF was designed to address the fact that millions of acres of U.S. farmland have become overrun with weeds resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, best known as Roundup. The collaboration between the two companies was built around a different herbicide called dicamba.
Dicamba-tolerant crops could be planted and the herbicide would kill the weeds but not the crop itself when sprayed. This product has been around since the 1960s but was first only used sparingly and not directly sprayed on crops. According to AgJournal, dicamba can start to vaporize and drift away three days after it has been applied.
The two companies claimed they would make new dicamba formulations that would not drift away once sprayed and affect other crops. Both companies had promised this new system would bring “really good farmer-friendly formulations to the marketplace” with proper training and handling.
But, according to The Guardian, in private meetings dating back to 2009, records show agricultural experts warned that the plan to develop a dicamba-tolerant system could have catastrophic consequences. The experts told Monsanto that farmers were likely to spray old volatile versions of dicamba on the new dicamba-tolerant crops and even new versions were still likely to be volatile enough to move away from the special cotton and soybean fields on to crops growing on other farms.
In fact, a 2015 document shows predicted damage claims that would be made by farmers projecting out to 2018.
Both Monsanto and BASF continue to defend their products and claim the herbicide had been evaluated and approved by the EPA.
A Final Report on Dicamba-injured Soybean Acres, claims several million acres of crops have reported being damaged by dicamba. Over 100 U.S. farmers are currently engaged in litigation in federal court against Monsanto and BASF.