Lawsuit Targets Dicamba

Court Asked to Force Agency Review of Dicamba's Conditional Permit

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
Connect with Todd:
In November, the EPA registered the first dicamba-based herbicide to use with the Xtend trait. Several environmental groups asked an appeals court to find EPA violated its duties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. (DTN photo by Pam Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday in attempt to force the agency to take another look at the conditional use permit approved for the herbicide dicamba as it relates to Monsanto's Xtend soybean and cotton traits, according to a petition for review filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

In November, the EPA registered the first dicamba-based herbicide to use with the Xtend trait. XtendiMax with VaporGrip, a DGA salt-based formulation the contains an additive that Monsanto has said helps reduce volatility compared to previous DGA formulations by 90%. In December, EPA registered BASF's Engenia, a new BAPMA-salt low-volatility formulation.

On Friday, the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network asked the court to find EPA violated its duties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, and failed to consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service as the permit relates to the Endangered Species Act.

"Monsanto is not a Party to this lawsuit filed against U.S. EPA," Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord said in an email to DTN.

"However, farmers need new tools for weed control, and the EPA approved XtendiMax with VaporGrip technology for in-crop use after more than seven years of exhaustive scientific review and evaluation. Dicamba-based herbicides have a 40-year history of safe use and we are confident the government's exhaustive assessment will prevail."

Center for Food Safety senior attorney George Kimbrell said in a statement EPA's approval of dicamba means "federal regulators have abandoned the interests of farmers, the environment, and public health. We won't allow our food to be dragged backward into a pesticide-soaked nightmare -- not without a hell of a fight."

Dicamba-related drift complaints were filed in 10 states in 2016. In Missouri, for example, there were at least 124 drift complaints filed with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Some states are seeking more stringent requirements than the federal XtendiMax label. Mississippi, for example, has proposed to reduce the wind speed allowance to 10 miles per hour, compared to the federal label's 15 mph. Indiana has proposals on the books to make agricultural formulations that contain 6.5% or more dicamba as restricted-use herbicide status.

The Arkansas Plant Board received legislative confirmation this month on their decision to ban all dicamba DMA and acid salt formulations, to prohibit the spraying of XtendiMax between April 15 and Sept. 15, to set slightly different buffer requirements for Engenia and to require special applicator education. Other states are looking at legislation that would significantly increase fines for growers caught spraying older formulations on Xtend crops.

DuPont also announced it is licensing a DGA-based herbicide with VaporGrip from Monsanto to be marketed under the trade name FeXapan.

"Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops created an environmental disaster by causing infestation of tens of millions of acres of farmland with herbicide-resistant weeds and spurring an enormous increase in pesticide use," said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. "Planting more GE crops and dousing them with more noxious chemicals isn't the answer. The Environmental Protection Agency should be protecting health and the environment, not Monsanto's profits."

In a news release Monday, the groups filing the petition said they continue to be concerned about an "outbreak" of dicamba resistance in weeds.

"While Monsanto spins its new dicamba crops as a fix to the current weed resistance problems its own Roundup Ready crop system caused, many scientists, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture, predict the opposite: the rapid emergence of more super weeds, resistant to both herbicides," the news release said.

"The evidence on the ground already indicates EPA's weak weed resistance 'management' plan will make the problem even worse, both because it lacks limits on dicamba use, and because it primarily relies on Monsanto for its implementation and enforcement."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

(PS/CC/ES)

Todd Neeley