With Crawfish Farmers Over Fipronil For $45 Million
(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2004) Lawyers for both sides have agreed to a preliminary $45 million settlement in the ICON class action suit, according to a Louisiana Gannett News article on March 30. The settlement is the result of close to five years of legal disputes between the makers of ICON, Bayer CropScience (formerly Aventis Crop Sciences), and Louisiana crawfish farmers.
Several hundred to 1,500 Louisiana crawfish farmers and land-owners were financially harmed by the introduction of the pesticide ICON to rice farms where crawfish also were raised. ICON contains the active ingredient fipronil, which disrupts insects' central nervous system, acting with contact and stomach action. According to the U.S. EPA Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential, fipronil is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Local rice farmers blamed rice seed treated with the pesticide fipronil for destroying the crawfish crop and contaminating the fields. Bayer blamed drought conditions.
The suit, first filed in December 2001 in St. Landry Parish, asserts that Aventis "negligently tested, formulated and manufactured ICON," resulting in crawfish kills, reports the Gannett News.
"It's been a long, hard fought battle," said Attorney Patrick Morrow, one of the lawyers representing the farmers, reports the Gannett News. "The settlement is a fair resolution for Louisiana's crawfish farmers," he said. "Farmers who suffered tremendous declines in their crawfish crops allegedly due to the contamination of their ponds with fipronil have had their day in court and will now be compensated.
In 1999, Aventis, then-named Rhone-Poulenc, introduced ICON to control rice weevils that had plagued one of Louisiana's largest cash crops. The pesticide was designed to wash off as the seed was planted under water and thus kill the water weevils. That year the crawfish industry in South Louisiana collapsed, dropping from an annual production of more that 40 million pounds to less than 18 million in a single year. Production has remained low ever since and is only now beginning to recover.
After three years of pretrial maneuvering, the question of who is right will not be answered. By entering the settlement agreement, Bayer admitted no liability and most likely avoided hundreds of millions of dollars in damage claims. The settlement came just the day before closing arguments were to begin in the month-long trial before 27th Judicial District Court.
See previous Beyond Pesticides Daily News Story.
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