Glyphosate, the herbicidal ingredient in Roundup weed killer, has been the center of attention for Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical giant. The company recently announced verbally that it has set aside $10 billion to settle Roundup lawsuits with plaintiffs who allege the product causes cancer. Now, more bad news for Bayer over another of its agricultural weed killers the company acquired when it purchased Monsanto two years ago. Only this time it’s a different chemical.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals concluded Bayer can no longer sell in the United States, its weed killing product, XtendiMax, over concerns the Environmental Protection Agency failed to fully disclose the risks inherent in the main chemical in the product, dicamba.
Dicamba, after being applied to crops on a farm, can vaporize and drift onto adjacent farms or fields, causing widespread damage to both plants and wildlife.
According to Yahoo Finance, the herbicide destroyed 3.6 million acres of untreated soybeans in 2017, and more than 1 million acres in 2018. The court’s ruling also scolded the EPA, concluding the federal agency violated federal regulations by extending its approval of registration for the herbicide for another two years in October 2018.
The court’s ruling also affects other companies who sell dicamba-based weed killers. Among them are BASF’s Engenia and Corteva Agriscience’s FeXapan.
Although environmental and consumer safety advocates are heradling the decision, Bayer intends to seek new registration for XtendiMax in 2021.
As for the EPA, Yahoo Finance predicts it will most re-authorize dicamba, albeit in a revised form.
Bayer and BASF were sued by a Missouri farmer, who alleged that dicamba destroyed his peach orchard. A jury awarded the farmer $265 million in damages earlier this year; Bayer is challenging the verdict. The two companies are facing approximately 140 dicamba suits.
The EPA, Bayer and BASF share concerns that farmers who have already purchased the herbicide will have to purchase additional seeds and pesticides, and be forced to use costly alternative pesticide technology.
The three-judge panel pointed to the fact that use of dicamba not only has wreaked environmental havoc, the chemical has proved contentious, sometimes deadly. The court cited a 2016 incident in Arkansas, in which a farmer shot and killed a neighboring farmer over use of the Monsanto-created herbicide.