Recently, farmers and and conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), challenging the agency’s re-approval of dicamba, a pesticide that has “caused drift damage to millions of acres of soybeans as well as orchards, gardens, trees and other plants on a scale unprecedented in the history of U.S. agriculture,” reads a press release disseminated by the Center for Biological Diversity, one of four organizations listed as plaintiffs in the petition.
The National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network North America are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which the organizations filed due to the EPA’s new five-year approval of three dicamba products: XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium.
Since 2016, dicamba has been sprayed on top of genetically-engineered cotton and soybeans. These crops have been engineered to withstand dicamba, which like the more publicized herbicide/pesticide, glyphosate, is linked to health concerns.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, determined that use of dicamba can increase the risk of developing numerous cancers, including liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancers, acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma.
This is not the first time the EPA has come under scrutiny for approving dicamba. In June 2020, a the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the agency’s decision to approve the pesticide was unlawful.
According to a statement in the press release, George Kimbrell, legal director of Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case, said: “Less than six months ago, the Ninth Circuit resoundingly rejected Monsanto’s and EPA’s arguments about this pesticide, detailing its substantial drift harms.”
Kimbrell added, “Rather than do what the law and science requires, the Trump administration has again unlawfully promoted pesticide corporations’ profits over protecting the interests of farmers or the environment….”
In addition to this lawsuit, thousands of farmers have sued Monsanto and chemical company giant, BASF, for dicamba drift damages. These cases were settled as a class action lawsuit for $400 million.
One peach farmer from Missouri, whose lawsuit was not included in the class action, was awarded $15 million by a jury for damage to his orchard. An additional $250 million in punitive damages was also awarded.
A report by the Guardian reveals that even though Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) and BASF publicly maintained that dicamba did not pose a drift threat, company projections predicted thousands of drift complaints in the first five years the pesticide would be available for use in the marketplace.
As early as 2010, the Center for Food Safety urged EPA to reject Monsanto’s petition to approve dicamba. The press release claims the EPA ignored CFS’s warnings that the pesticide would cause drift damage to nearby crops and vegetation, and cause a proliferation of dicamba-resistant superweeds. Instead of heeding CFS’s dire warnings and prescient predictions, EPA relied “entirely on faulty, Monsanto-generated data in concluding drift injury would not occur, and on an ineffective herbicide-resistant management plan.”
“It’s absurd that we have to go to court to force EPA to do its job,” said Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network North America. “Millions of acres of crops have already been damaged by dicamba. This herbicide is hurting farmers and is already creating more resistant weeds, accelerating a dangerous pesticide treadmill.”
Jim Goodman, a retired farmer and National Family Farm Coalition board president added, “The Environmental Protection Agency clearly has no intention of living up to its name or its mission. Added Goodman, “The agency continues to work on behalf of corporate profits over the health and wellbeing of farmers, farmworkers and their communities.”