“An appalling anti-science decision announced yesterday by the EPA’s Andrew Wheeler allows drift-prone herbicide dicamba to be used on GM soybeans and cotton for another 5 years. This comes despite a June 2020 ban of dicamba by a U.S. court of appeals. Since dicamba-tolerant GM soy and cotton were approved in 2015, uncontrollable drift has been responsible for unprecedented damage to millions of acres of crops, orchards, vineyards, forests and landscapes. The approval of dicamba-tolerant GM crops has been a complete disaster.
In 2016, reports of dicamba-drift damage started rolling in as some producers were illegally using dicamba. Though the USDA approved the dicamba-tolerant GM seeds in 2015, the herbicide formulations were not approved by the EPA until late 2016. Pitting farmer against farmer, Mike Wallace was murdered in a dispute where he was trying to defend his crop from dicamba drift from an adjacent farm run by Allan Curtis Jones. It was not a good beginning for Monsanto’s new GM seeds.
2018 brought beekeepers forward to denounce the product. The drift problems persisted, unprecedented, and unabated. Despite a ban in Arkansas, growers were still spraying dicamba. By the end of the year, the Arkansas Plant Board rolled back the ban despite overwhelming evidence that it was harming trees, crops, bees and their forage foods.
2019 was the year of dicamba fatigue. Plant boards were overwhelmed and states’ damage reports fell on deaf ears at the EPA. Monsanto continued blaming applicators. Then came 2020. In January a day of reckoning arrived. On the first day of the trial, Bader Farms v Monsanto, documents were presented revealing that Monsanto and BASF knew there would be drift problems in 2015, but conspired to profit anyway. After 3 weeks of grueling testimony, the jury awarded Bader Farms $15 million in actual damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
In May, a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology linked dicamba to increased cancer risk.
In June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s dicamba approval, writing, “A review of the record shows that the EPA substantially understated the risks. The review also shows that the EPA entirely failed to acknowledge other risks.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler ignored the court’s ruling and allowed sales of existing dicamba stocks to continue. And the drift damage reports kept rolling in.
Also in June, Bayer-Monsanto announced a $400 million settlement of wider dicamba injury claims.
Then in September, a farm belonging to the Chair of the Arkansas Plant Board was attacked by vandals three times. The attacks were believed to be related to his position on dicamba use and the board’s investigation of farmers suspected of illegally using dicamba products.
It has been a harrowing 5 years to say the least.
We condemn EPA’s decision to reapprove dicamba, notably in the wake of EPA’s recent pesticide reapproval blitz of atrazine, paraquat and dozens of other highly toxic pesticides. Andrew Wheeler and the agency are clearly doing industry’s bidding, rather than fulfilling the congressional mandate to protect the public’s health. Andrew Wheeler must be removed and the revolving door between industry and regulatory agencies closed.”