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Arizona Court Cancels EPA’s Approval Of Dicamba Pesticide

Above photo: On the left, soybean plants on an Arkansas farm show damage from dicamba with stunted growth, curled up leaves and low bean yield. On the right, soybean plants not exposed to dicamba and planted later in the season stand taller than the ones on the left. The Washington Post / Getty Images.

A ‘Vital Victory For Farmers And The Environment.’

In a win for farmers and endangered plants and wildlife, an Arizona district court has revoked the approval of the destructive pesticide dicamba, saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law when it allowed it to be on the market.

Dicamba-based weedkillers have been widely used on soybean and cotton crops genetically engineered by Bayer (formerly Monsanto), a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity — who brought the lawsuit — said.

“This is a vital victory for farmers and the environment,” said George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case, in the press release. “Time and time again, the evidence has shown that dicamba cannot be used without causing massive and unprecedented harm to farms as well as endangering plants and pollinators. The court today resoundingly reaffirmed what we have always maintained: the EPA’s and Monsanto’s claims of dicamba’s safety were irresponsible and unlawful.”

Dicamba has a tendency to drift, damaging millions of acres of wild plants, animals and crops for which it was not intended. The EPA first approved the harmful pesticide in 2017 for use on crops that were genetically engineered to be able to withstand what would be a deadly dose for other plants.

The United States District Court for the District of Arizona’s ruling overturned the reapproval of dicamba by the EPA in 2020, which specified application restrictions that did not prevent damage caused by persistent drifting.

The EPA has estimated that three-fourths of cotton crops and two-thirds of soybean crops — 65 million acres — are resistant to dicamba. Roughly half those acres were actually sprayed with the toxin.

Some farmers have even gone so far as to plant crops “defensively” to avoid drift damage from dicamba.

The district court ruled that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act had been violated by the EPA, saying the breach was “very serious,” since the EPA had previously been ruled against by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for failing to consider the significant risks of excessive dicamba use when issuing the previous registration.

“I hope the court’s emphatic rejection of the EPA’s reckless approval of dicamba will spur the agency to finally stop ignoring the far-reaching harm caused by this dangerous pesticide,” said Nathan Donley, the Center for Biological Diversity’s director of environmental health science, in the press release. “Endangered butterflies and bee populations will keep tanking if the EPA keeps twisting itself into a pretzel to approve this product just to appease the pesticide industry.”

Farmers whose crops are unable to withstand dicamba’s intense effects were happy with the ruling.

“Every summer since the approval of dicamba, our farm has suffered significant damage to a wide range of vegetable crops,” said farmer Rob Faux, who is also a communications manager with Pesticide Action Network, in the press release. “Today’s decision provides much needed and overdue protection for farmers and the environment.”

The pesticide threatens endangered species like the rusty patched bumblebee. Beekeepers have reported steep declines in honey production because of dicamba drift, which suppresses the flowering plants bees need to survive.

“We are grateful that the court held the EPA and Monsanto accountable for the massive damage from dicamba to farmers, farmworkers and the environment, and halted its use,” said Lisa Griffith, an outreach and communications coordinator with the National Family Farm Coalition. “The pesticide system that Monsanto sells should not be sprayed as it cannot be sprayed safely.”

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