Dicamba Herbicide Lawsuit Cites Endangered Species Act Concerns

By Tiffany Stecker

Environmental groups are challenging an Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow the sale of an herbicide marketed as a solution for farmers dealing with difficult weeds ( Nat’l Family Farm Coal. v. EPA , 9th Cir., No. 17-70196, 1/20/17 ).

The challengers, which include the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America, filed a lawsuit Jan. 20 in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against the EPA’s approval of Monsanto Co.'s XtendiMax, a combination of the herbicides dicamba and glyphosate.

In a statement, the groups cited health concerns due to increased pesticide exposure and the evolution of more herbicide-resistant weeds as reasons to rescind the approval.

“Federal regulators have abandoned the interests of farmers, the environment and public health,” said George Kimbrell, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “We won’t allow our food to be dragged backward into a pesticide-soaked nightmare—not without a hell of a fight.”

The petition for review stated that the EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in issuing a conditional registration for the herbicide, which allows Monsanto to legally sell the product through Nov. 9, 2018. The groups also charge the EPA with failing to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on whether the weedkiller harms plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Farmer Killed in Dicamba Tussle

In a statement, the challengers cited a 2001 study that linked dicamba and other pesticides with an elevated risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Glyphosate also was identified as a “probable” carcinogen in 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, a finding that Monsanto and the pesticide industry have sharply refuted.

The EPA approved the weedkiller Nov. 9, 2016. It is designed to be used on Monsanto’s cotton and soybean plants that are genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide.

XtendiMax is formulated to be less prone to drifting in the wind than older versions of dicamba. The delay in approving the herbicide led to farmers using older, high-volatility versions of dicamba last summer on genetically engineered soybeans, leading to a record number of complaints from farmers whose crops were damaged.

Last year, an Arkansas farmer was shot and killed over a dispute over soybean damage from drifting dicamba.

In its approval of XtendiMax, the EPA also imposed restrictions on how it can be used. Spraying the herbicide from aircraft is not allowed and growers cannot use the weedkiller when wind speeds are above 15 miles an hour.

The proliferation of weeds resistant to glyphosate, the world’s most common herbicide, has created demand for alternatives. Monsanto is investing nearly $1 billion in its Luling, La., dicamba plant through 2019.

A Monsanto spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA in a statement that the EPA’s approval follows more than seven years of scientific review. “Dicamba-based herbicides have a 40-year history of safe use, and we are confident the Government’s exhaustive assessment will prevail,” said Charla Lord.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Washington, D.C., at tstecker@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The petition to review the Environmental Protection Agency's approval of XtendiMax is available at http://src.bna.com/lBd.

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