Bayer and BASF Ordered to Pay $265 Million to U.S. Peach Farmer in Weedkiller Suit
A jury in Missouri awarded a farmer $265 million in a lawsuit that claimed Bayer and BASF's weedkiller destroyed his peach orchard, as Reuters reported.
The lawsuit is ominous for Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018 and now faces nearly 140 similar lawsuits in U.S. courts, plus thousands of other suits that claim health damage from Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri awarded peach farmer, Bill Bader, $15 million in actual damages and $250 million in punitive damages, after agreeing with his claim that a herbicide the two German companies produced drifted onto his orchard from nearby farms and irreparably damaged his 1,000 acre peach-tree orchard, according to Reuters.
Bader Farms is one of the largest peach tree farms in Missouri.
As the AP reported, Bader's attorneys argued that dicamba, which is present in herbicides made by Bayer and BASF, is so potent that there was no way for Bader's trees to recover from the exposure. The generous award paves the way for a large spate of lawsuits from farmers who have seen their crops destroyed by inadvertent exposure to dicamba-based products.
Like Roundup, dicamba was developed and distributed by Monsanto. Farmers across the country have claimed that dicamba turns into vapor and drifts for miles when used in certain weather conditions, as Reuters reported. They have alleged that it has destroyed millions of acres of U.S. cropland, according to The Associated Press.
Attorneys for Bayer said they plan to appeal the decision. "We want our customers to know that, as this legal matter continues, we remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering them the effective and sustainable tools they need in the field," Bayer said in a statement, as The Associated Press reported. In court, they argued that Bader Farms trees were damaged by root fungus and bad weather.
The lawyers also claimed that the decision was not based on facts, saying "there was no competent evidence presented which showed that Monsanto's products were present" on the Missouri farm and were responsible for the farmer's losses, according to Bloomberg.
The loss in this trial, which surely opens the door for many more lawsuits, heaps an enormous amount of pressure on Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann, who staked his career on the $63 billion takeover of Monsanto. He became the first CEO of a major German company in decades to lose a shareholder confidence vote last spring, as Bloomberg reported.
Dicamba is not a new product. Farmers have been using it for nearly half a century. However, Monsanto developed a dicamba-resistant strain of cotton and soybeans. That opened the door for widespread use of dicamba, which led to complaints from neighboring farms who claimed that their crops were getting killed by the dicamba drift, as The Associated Press reported.
In response to those concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created tighter restrictions on dicamba usage. Some states have taken additional steps, requiring training and putting in place firm dates dictating when dicamba can and cannot be sprayed, according to The Associated Press.
The legal cases from Monsanto continue to pile up for Bayer. Not only are Roundup and dicamba suits in the pipeline, the company also faces litigation from several cities that claim Monsanto dumped toxic PCBs into waterways, as Bloomberg reported.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.