The debate about whose to blame for the dicamba drift crisis of 2016 and 2017 continues, with a new lawsuit filed in federal court last week taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency for their approval and regulation of the new dicamba formulations.
A recent story in the Wisconsin Gazette describes the suit against the EPA and Monsanto, which was initiated by five agricultural and environmental watchdog organizations: the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network.
Over 3 million acres of soybeans were damaged in 2017 by drift from applications of the new dicamba formulations, including Monsanto’s Xtendimax which is named in this new lawsuit. These herbicides were developed to be sprayed on the new dicamba-resistant crops through most of the growing season, targeting weeds that have developed resistance to other commonly used herbicides. The result — much wider use and more frequent applications of dicamba, long known to be prone to volatilization and drift, and for much later in the growing season.
For more, see our series of Herbicide Timelines and Dicamba Watch, with in-depth coverage of the dicamba drift crisis, including state-by-state responses as the drama unfolded. We also have put together a comprehensive guide to pending lawsuits related to dicamba drift damage; Monsanto’s legal team is bound to have a busy year!
The Wisconsin Gazette article points out that many critics warned that dicamba was likely to drift when applied during the hot summer months. The lawsuit further alleges that EPA did little to address these concerns, instead bowing to pressure from Monsanto to conditionally approve the new formulations.
Court documents also claim that EPA recognized the potential negative impact from dicamba to hundreds of endangered species that would be exposed, but did not follow Endangered Species Act requirements to seek guidance on protective measures from the appropriate federal wildlife agencies.
“That the EPA would indulge in this kind of recklessness and junk science to appease Monsanto is shocking,” said Paul Achitoff, attorney with Earthjustice, in a statement.
The EPA has approved additional restrictions for dicamba in 2018, but many feel they will not address the drift problem and anticipate another season of damaged crops. Stay tuned right here for more as this story develops.
National Family Farm Coalition, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency and Monsanto Company, Case No. 17-70196, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Filed February 9, 2018.
Lisa Neff, “Farmers, conservationists challenge Trump’s EPA, Monsanto over crop-damaging pesticide,” The Wisconsin Gazette, February 13, 2018.