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Bayer and BASF Ordered to Pay $265 Million to U.S. Peach Farmer in Weedkiller Suit

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Bayer and BASF Ordered to Pay $265 Million to U.S. Peach Farmer in Weedkiller Suit
Bill Bader, owner of Bader Farms, and his wife Denise pose in front of the Rush Hudson Limbaugh Sr. United States Courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Jan. 27, 2020. Johnathan Hettinger / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

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.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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