Public interest groups sue EPA for re-approving controversial herbicide dicamba


Public-interest groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s re-approval of products containing dicamba, a herbicide controversial for its tendency to drift into neighboring fields and damage farmers’ crops and homeowners’ gardens.

Last fall, the EPA green-lighted dicamba use for five years, the third time the agency registered dicamba products.

George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, said last summer a federal court found the Trump administration’s 2018 approval of dicamba unlawful, noting the EPA had failed to consider the adverse impacts to farmers and the environment before granting approval.  “And yet five months later, right before the election, they went back and re-approved this same product,” Kimbrell observed. “So we’re back in court fighting to prevent those harms from again occurring.”

The latest lawsuit seeks to stop the nationwide use of dicamba during this year’s growing season.

The EPA decides when and how much dicamba farmers can spray on their crops, but Kimbrell noted some states are enacting tougher restrictions.  Arkansas has banned farmers from spraying the herbicide after May 25, and Illinois and Indiana have passed similar cut-off dates.

Over the past few years, dicamba sprayed atop soybean and cotton crops has caused drift damage to millions of acres.  In Arkansas, thousands of complaints over the herbicide have been lodged and farmers have sued the makers of dicamba products for damages.

Kimbrell added dicamba use has created a harmful cycle for growers.  “It’s not all remedied by money,” Kimbrell contended. “You have farmers that are losing the right to plant the crop of their choice, and having to buy these genetically engineered seeds defensively and plant them because they know they’re going to be hit by drift and their crops are going to be damaged.”  He believes dicamba products are a linchpin of an unsustainable industrial food system and pointed to recent studies showing human exposure to dicamba can increase the risk of developing numerous cancers, including acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“They’re a monocultural crop system that is harming the environment and harming American farmers, on behalf of agrochemical companies to sell more pesticides that then go onto our food and into the environment,” Kimbrell asserted.

The EPA said its five-year registration of dicamba products for use on genetically modified soybean and cotton crops meets the regulatory standard of causing no unreasonable adverse effects to either human health or the environment.