Photograph: Tom Polansek/Reuters
The US Environmental Protection Agency effectively ignored a 2020 federal court order prohibiting the use of Monsanto and other manufacturers’ toxic dicamba-based herbicides that are destroying millions of acres of farmland, harming endangered species. extinction and increasing cancer risks for farmers, new fillings in the lawsuit charge.
Instead of permanently pulling the products from the market after the 2020 order, the EPA only required industry to add additional application instructions to herbicide labels before re-approving the products.
A late 2021 EPA investigation found that the same problems persist even with new claims added to the label, but the agency still allows Monsanto, BASF and other manufacturers to continue using dicamba.
“The new litigation was prompted by EPA’s decision to ignore the court ruling and move forward with the reapproval of the pesticide,” the plaintiffs in the lawsuit wrote in a statement. “In reapproving dicamba, EPA once again failed to weigh the true costs to farmers and the environment.”
The fillings are a continuation of the 2020 lawsuit, filed by the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America. The groups are asking the court to re-order the EPA to revoke approval of the controversial products.
EPA’s move is another example of how the agency “treats the pesticide industry not as regulated companies, but as customers,” said Nathan Donley, director of environmental health sciences at the Center For Biological Diversity.
The EPA’s Pesticide Office is embroiled in allegations that career managers are influenced by or colluded with industry and in some cases have faked science to make hazardous substances appear less toxic. About a third of the pesticide bureau’s funding comes from industry taxes.
“The pesticide industry has a lot of clout in the EPA’s pesticide office, a lot of persuading people there, and the culture of the office is very much allied with the pesticide industry,” Donley said. at the Guardian.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
The agency in 2016 approved the dicamba-based herbicide being developed by Monsanto, which was intended for use on genetically engineered soybean and cotton crops that the company engineered and are “dicamba tolerant.”
Herbicides are sprayed over the fields and effectively kill the weeds. However, they are also highly volatile and prone to moving to nearby fields when scattered, or they can lift themselves off the ground and plants and travel up to a mile.
When this happens, the herbicide can damage or kill nearby crops and plants that aren’t designed to be dicamba resistant. More frequently, the substance impairs their ability to grow or flower and reduces the height and yield of non-dicamba-resistant crops.
The results are “devastating” and destroying millions of acres like “never before in US agricultural history,” the plaintiffs said.
The herbicide also impairs the ability of plants and flowers to produce nectar, which environmental groups say deprives pollinators of food. In some cases, direct exposure to dicamba can kill insects, mammals and other animals, Donley said, and is linked to reproductive harm and developmental problems in animals.
Peer-reviewed studies also found that dicamba likely doubled the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Canadian farmers and increased liver cancer rates in highly exposed US farmers.
Monsanto and BASF’s own science found that the herbicide was likely to cause such damage, according to documents released during a successful $265 million lawsuit filed against both companies by a Missouri farmer. The court in 2020 wrote in its order that EPA “refused to estimate the amount of dicamba damage” that would be caused and said it was “extremely unlikely” that the agency could legally approve the herbicides.
However, four months after the 2020 ruling, the EPA re-approved the herbicides after manufacturers added claims to labels. But the changes didn’t significantly reduce the problems, the plaintiffs say, because “the real problem is that the weather-related directions for use are so numerous and restrictive that it makes it impossible” to apply the herbicides correctly.
The EPA came to a similar conclusion in its investigation of herbicide use during the 2021 growing season, and released a report in December of that year detailing the “substantial” destruction of food crops in nearby fields. . He noted that the label changes did not reduce the “number, severity, or geographic extent of dicamba-related incidents.”
The agency also documented damage to university research farms, cemeteries, cemeteries, state fish and game properties, state natural areas, city parks, state and national wildlife refuges, state parks, and numerous other public spaces.
He also acknowledged that the herbicide has “fractured” rural communities and led to “threats of violence”.
However, the EPA has not rescinded the approvals as of 2022. In Bremer County, Iowa, Robert Faux’s Organic Genuine Faux Farm is located in a rural region amid farms that rely heavily on dicamba fertilizer, Faux said in a statement. filed in support of the case.
After the EPA approved the herbicide in 2016 and his neighbors began spreading it, he saw his farms’ output of up to 14 tons of food a year shrink to seven tons in 2018. Prior to 2017, the company it was producing up to 3,000 peppers a year, but that number dropped to seven in 2018.
Faux noted that he started growing some peppers in a wind tunnel that protected the plants from dicamba and used the same methods as those plants that weren’t protected. The protected plants thrived and the unprotected ones were stunted, she said.
Dicamba travels long distances and is used extensively in the area, so it’s impossible to identify the source, Faux wrote, and said it has strained his relationship with his neighbors who resent him for not using GM crops. which forces them to be more careful.
“It is clear to me that part of the solution must come from the source of the problem, which is the EPA registrations of dicamba products,” Faux wrote.