A number of environmental groups are asking a federal judge to revoke the approval for Monsanto’s dicambi-based weedkiller XtendiMax, which has been linked to millions of acres of soybean crop damage throughout the United States.
According to a report by Reuters, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, Pesticide Action Network North America and other groups presented arguments before 9th Circuit U.S. Appeals Court Judge William Fletcher at a hearing on Wednesday, indicating that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to do its due diligence in ensuring the safety of dicamba before it was approved for use.
The groups filed a dicambi weedkiller lawsuit in February, seeking to overturn the agency’s approval of the herbicide. The lawsuit came following reports that dicamba was linked to at least 3 million acres of soybean crop damage in 2017.
Dicamba is a synthetic herbicide, which has been used for years by farmers nationwide to control weeds. However, it has typically only been used during certain times of year. Following the promotion of crops that are resistant to the herbicide, farmers began to apply dicamba more frequently, resulting in problems when it drifts onto neighboring crops.
The case comes amid a growing number of dicambi crop damage lawsuits filed over the last year, each raising similar allegations that Monsanto and BASF marketed dicamba for use on a new type of tolerant crop, which can withstand exposure to their herbicides, knowing it would cause severe and widespread damage to neighboring crops, essentially forcing other farmers to defensively plant crops using their resistant seed in future growing seasons.
The environmental groups say that the EPA relied heavily on Monsanto’s data and testimony for the approval, instead of investigating the herbicide themselves. However, Reuters’ story notes that it is unclear if the court has the authority to revoke the EPA’s dicamba decision.
The agency is currently weighing whether to renew the license allowing the sale of dicamba, which expires on November 8. However, some reports indicate that dicamba has caused even more crop damage this year than in 2018, as more farmers buy soybean resistant seeds and then spray them with XtendiMax, causing it to drift onto their neighbors’ fields.
In June, a report by Integrated Pest Management at the University of Missouri warned that about 383,000 acres of soybeans had been damaged by dicamba as of June 15. The report indicated that the damage to soybeans, as well as other crops, vegetables and ornamental species, appeared to be more prevalent at that time of the year in 2018 than it was in 2017.