In a giant setback to agribusiness giant Bayer, a court overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of its latest weed-killing spray. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that, in 2018, the EPA understated the risks of three herbicides when it approved the use of the sprays for farms in the United States.
The court faulted the EPA for failing to consider evidence that showed that the active ingredient in these weed killers, dicamba, caused substantial damage to neighboring crops. Applications of the herbicides had caused giant rifts in farming communities across the country. The weed killers, particularly XTendiMax, were designed to kill the weeds that can destroy soybean and cotton plants. However, the active ingredient in the weed killer, dicamba, evaporated from the plants and drifted on the wind to other crops that were not developed to resist it. That ended up in many crops on neighboring farms shriveling. Farmers who used the spray had disputes with neighboring farmers who did not. In one case, it is believed that an Arkansas farmer was murdered in 2016 in a dispute related to dicamba.
Farm and environmental groups, including the National Family Farm Coalition and the Center for Food Safety, filed lawsuits against the EPA related to the controversial weed killer. The lawsuits alleged that the agency’s approval of three herbicides containing dicamba violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Bayer stated that it strongly disagreed with the court’s decision, and it would work to minimize its impact on Bayer customers. The company plans to continue making sure that consumers still have access to the weed killer. The dicamba-containing weed killers were developed to combat weeds that were resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the controversial herbicide Roundup. The court’s ruling is a boost to Bayer rival Corteva, Inc., who is set to roll out a new weed killer that does not contain dicamba.
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