Dicamba Under Scrutiny

Lawsuit Demands EPA Vacate Dicamba Registration

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Details from a lawsuit against EPA call into question the agency's registration of XtendiMax, Monsanto's dicamba herbicide. (DTN file photo)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- New details are emerging from a lawsuit calling for EPA to vacate the registration of Monsanto's dicamba herbicide.

Originally filed in January 2017, the lawsuit's newly released briefs claim EPA ignored key requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and violated the Endangered Species Act when it registered Monsanto's XtendiMax herbicide, designed to be sprayed over the top of dicamba-tolerant crops.

It also argues that the agency was inappropriately influenced by Monsanto during the registration process.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs -- The National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network -- are among a crowded field.

Just two weeks ago, a panel of judges ruled that 11 separate lawsuits on dicamba drift damage should be consolidated in a federal court in St. Louis. (See the DTN story here: http://bit.ly/…). These lawsuits cover a range of complaints, but contain mostly farmer defendants seeking damages for crops injured by off-target dicamba movement and focus on the companies that sell the new dicamba formulations: Monsanto (XtendiMax), BASF (Engenia) and DuPont (FeXapan).

The lawsuit by National Family Farm Coalition et al. goes further by targeting EPA and demanding it scrap the registration of XtendiMax entirely.

"The evidence shows that, rather than protecting farmers and the public interest, government officials rushed this pesticide to market without the rigorous analysis and data the law requires," said George Kimbrell, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, in a press release. "There was good reason that decision had such devastating consequences last year: it was illegal."

A report from the University of Missouri estimated that more than 3 million acres of non-dicamba-tolerant soybeans were injured by dicamba drift during the 2017 growing season across 24 states. There were also reports of damage to other crops, such as melons and tomatoes, and non-crop plants such as trees.

The National Family Farm Coalition et al. lawsuit levels these accusations against EPA and Monsanto, among the many claims it makes in its filings with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District:

-- EPA relied too heavily on Monsanto's analysis of the risks posed by XtendiMax, while ignoring third-party evidence that suggested it could cause serious non-target injuries.

-- EPA ignored the risks posed to endangered species by XtendiMax

-- EPA took orders from Monsanto, not the states and academic experts, when revising the dicamba herbicide labels for the 2018 season, and did not address the problem of volatility with those changes.

In a statement to DTN, Monsanto dismissed the lawsuit's claims:

"The EPA approved XtendiMax herbicide after a long and careful review process, including years of analysis and a thorough evaluation of data regarding volatility. This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by NGO's to take a valuable tool out of the hands of American farmers."

The company is in the midst of training tens of thousands of applicators to apply XtendiMax properly in 2018, the statement added.

The registrations for the three dicamba herbicides, including XtendiMax, are only valid through November 2018; at that time, the EPA will reassess the effectiveness of the new labels and decide whether to continue their registration.

You can read the court filings from the National Family Farm Coalition et al. lawsuit here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com.

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Emily Unglesbee