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Dicamba Herbicide Declared Illegal, EPA Shockingly Disregards Ruling

(Damage caused by dicamba, on the right. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio/Trey Wilson)

Last Wednesday, consumers and environmental advocates scored a massive victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the EPA’s allowance of the super-toxic herbicide dicamba was illegal.

Even though this is an enormous development, what may be equally as significant is the EPA’s blatant disregard of the Court’s ruling, something that should alarm all American citizens.

What was at stake with the court’s decision was the legality of dicamba, an herbicide that was sprayed on approximately 60 million acres of genetically-engineered soybeans crops in the U.S. last year. This chemical also happens to carry very serious health risks, particularly for people who live in proximity to where it is sprayed and are exposed to it for 3-4 months straight during the season.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, human studies have shown that dicamba use is associated with certain types of cancers, and animal studies have found that dicamba can alter liver function in a way that is known to induce liver tumors and promote liver cancer in combination with other carcinogens. Dicamba is also known to cause DNA mutations and induce oxidative stress, two pathways known to cause cancer.

Furthermore, dicamba is toxic in low concentrations, prone to drift, causes damage to bees, other pollinators and the environment, and once sprayed, it can volatilize (form vapors) off of the fields for up to four days.

Dicamba is such a problem that the Ninth Circuit Court said the chemical has “torn apart the social fabric of many farming communities” due to the property damage caused by its spraying and the ensuing conflict between neighbors.

Given the impending demise of glyphosate and the thousands of current lawsuits claiming that Roundup causes cancer, the pesticide industry had been pinning its hopes on dicamba being “the product” for the decade ahead.

That is one reason why the Court’s ruling is such a crushing blow.

“While this is a pesticide case, it is a GMO and crop system case as well. The Court’s ruling has validated that this is a broken product, which is now causing an existential crisis and day of reckoning for the pesticide industry. This was supposed to be their Plan B after glyphosate but no longer,” said George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, lead counsel in the case.

In this important victory, the Ninth Circuit Court cited “enormous and unprecedented damage” caused by dicamba in the last few years and that the EPA made multiple errors when approving this product. From 2017 to 2019, farmers reported thousands of dicamba drift episodes causing damage to millions of acres of soybeans as well as vegetables, fruit trees, gardens and residential trees.

Nevertheless, because of dicamba’s importance to the chemical industry, the EPA announced on Monday that it was issuing a “cancellation order” that would allow farmers, until July 31st, to use existing stocks of Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan.

“The Trump administration is again showing it has no regard for the rule of law, and the order from EPA flies in the face of the Court’s decision holding dicamba-based pesticides unlawful. All users that continue to not seek alternatives should be on notice that they are using a harmful, defective and unlawful product. We will bring the EPA’s failure to abide by the Court’s order to the Court as expeditiously as possible,” said George Kimbrell.

The EPA disregarding the Ninth Circuit Court’s verdict is not only disconcerting for those who care about the environment and human health, but it is setting a very dangerous precedent for how our government is operating — with near disregard to the rule of law.

We now await further legal action to see if the Court can get the EPA to follow the Court’s decision.

Organic Insider will keep you informed as developments related to this case unfold.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

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