Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 12, 2018

Contact:  George Kimbrell, (971) 271-7372,
Paul Achitoff, (808) 599-2436,
Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406,

Farmers, Conservationists Challenge Trump's EPA, Monsanto Over Crop-damaging Pesticide Dicamba

Evidence Shows Hundreds of Endangered Species at Risk, Unprotected

WASHINGTON— Public-interest organizations representing farmers and conservationists  made their legal case in a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Monsanto’s new “XtendiMax” pesticide. XtendiMax is Monsanto’s version of dicamba, an old and highly drift-prone weed-killer. The EPA’s approval permitted XtendiMax to be sprayed for the first time on growing soybeans and cotton that Monsanto has genetically engineered to be resistant to dicamba.

The 2017 crop season — the first year of XtendiMax use — was an unprecedented disaster. Just as critics warned would happen, dicamba sprayed on Monsanto’s GE soybeans and cotton formed vapor clouds that drifted to damage a host of crops and wild plants. More than 3 million acres of soybeans as well as scores of vegetable and fruit crops, trees and shrubs throughout the country were reportedly damaged by dicamba drift. Flowering plants near cropland also suffered, with potential harms to pollinators, as well as hundreds of endangered animal and plant species. Agronomists reported they had never seen herbicide-related drift damage on anything approaching this scale before. As the 2018 season approaches, experts predict similar widespread devastation.

“The evidence shows that, rather than protecting farmers and the public interest, government officials rushed this pesticide to market without the rigorous analysis and data the law requires,” said George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, counsel in the case. “There was good reason that decision had such devastating consequences last year: it was illegal.”

The papers filed in court  tell the story of how the EPA should have known this would occur, yet instead was pressured by Monsanto into approving the pesticide without any measures to prevent vapor drift. The evidence in the case also shows that in late 2017, under pressure to take some action, the EPA adopted revised instructions for use Monsanto proposed and approved — measures that agronomists believe will again be ineffective.

“Last year, EPA ignored concerns of farmers, caving to Monsanto’s pressure and rushing dicamba-resistant seeds to market. EPA has failed utterly to protect farmers from this exploding crisis,” said Denise O’Brien, Iowa farmer and board president of Pesticide Action Network.

“I’m firmly against using dicamba,” said Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition board president raising soy, old-growth pine trees and roughly 20 different vegetables in Mississippi. “Mother Nature will win this fight anyway, but dicamba is very detrimental to the environment and will cause more harm than good to farms and farmers.”

Not only did the EPA fail to protect farmers, it put at risk literally hundreds of endangered species. Despite its own conclusion that the approval might harm an extraordinary number of the protected birds, mammals and insects in dozens of states, the agency refused to seek the guidance of the federal expert wildlife agencies, as the Endangered Species Act requires, and instead approved Monsanto’s pesticide without any protective measures, and denied there would be any risk.

Said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff: “EPA’s disregard of both the law and the welfare of endangered whooping cranes, gray wolves, Indiana bats and hundreds of other species at risk of extinction is unconscionable. That the EPA would indulge in this kind of recklessness and junk science to appease Monsanto is shocking.”

“The EPA’s foolish approval of dicamba left a deep scar across millions of acres of farms and forests,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ill-advised rush to approve this dangerous drift-prone pesticide reflects just how far the EPA has strayed from its duty to protect Americans and wildlife from harmful toxins.”

The plaintiff organizations bringing the lawsuit are National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity, represented jointly by legal counsel from Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.

Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than 900,000 consumer and farmer advocates across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood, @CFS_Press

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.  Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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