ST. LOUIS — The National Black Farmers Association filed on Wednesday a federal lawsuit to block Creve Coeur-based agribusiness giant Monsanto and its German parent company, Bayer, from selling the weed killer Roundup.
The suit alleges that Black farmers across the country have been forced to use Roundup-resistant seeds and Roundup in increasingly heavier applications, and that Monsanto failed to inform the farmers of the weed killer’s risks.
“The cycle can only be broken by removing the product from the market,” Christopher Schnieders, a partner at Napoli & Shkolnik in Kansas City and one of the attorneys who filed suit, said at a Wednesday press conference.
In June, Bayer agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims that Roundup causes cancer, but wouldn’t agree to stop selling the product, or add warning labels.
Bayer said Wednesday’s suit is brought by two firms that refused to settle. “People should see this action for what it is — an attempt by plaintiffs’ lawyers to use media and more litigation to further their own financial interests,” the company said in a statement sent by deputy communications director Susan Luke. “There is no basis in fact or law for the health claims in this suit, as Roundup has been assessed and approved by independent health regulators worldwide, including the EPA, which have found that Roundup can be used safely as directed.”
Farmers have many seed and weed killer choices, the company said. “Competition and choice are alive and well in agriculture and benefit farmers equally,” the statement concluded.
The National Black Farmers Association represents 109,000 Black farmers in 42 states. The suit, filed in federal court here on Wednesday morning, alleges that thousands of those farmers have used RoundUp for decades. Some have already been injured by the product, the suit says. Others believe they are developing cancer.
The suit says Monsanto has slowly been buying seed companies and shelf space in local seed stores, “crowding out conventional varieties.”
“The only remaining option was thus to buy the Roundup Ready seeds developed by Monsanto, which, in turn, practically require the use of glyphosate-containing Roundup products in order to justify the enormous premium these genetically modified seeds command,” the suit says. “The overwhelming majority of Black farmers are thus now farming soybeans and grain grown from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed, and using the products at issue here to do so.”
Moreover, the suit alleges, the weeds Roundup was meant to kill, Pigweed and broadleaf species, are becoming more and more resistant to the herbicide, requiring farmers to use more Roundup, and also other dangerous chemicals.
“Finally, in part due to long-documented disparities in literacy and education rates, Black farmers have been particularly harmed by the lack of a plain, clear warning (like those on cigarette labels) on Roundup products, compounded by the fact that Monsanto has lied to them for decades, assuring them that Roundup products are safe,” the suit concludes.
The suit asks the court to block Monsanto from continuing to market and sell Roundup, to force Monsanto to remove the products from store shelves, and to more clearly label the product’s dangers.
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