A federal court in Arizona has made a landmark ruling by revoking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2020 approval of dicamba, a controversial herbicide. The decision was reached after U.S. District Judge David C. Bury determined that the EPA had not adhered to the mandatory public notice and comment requirements outlined in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This act, established in 1947, aims to safeguard agricultural workers, consumers, and the environment from potential harm caused by pesticides.
The court’s 47-page judgment highlights the failure of the EPA to ensure proper regulatory procedures were followed. This verdict has been hailed as “a sweeping victory for family farmers and dozens of endangered plants and animals” by the plaintiffs involved in the case. George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), one of the plaintiffs, remarked, “This is a vital victory for farmers and the environment. Time and time again, the evidence has shown that dicamba cannot be used without causing massive and unprecedented harm to farms as well as endangering plants and pollinators.”
Dicamba’s use has been contentious due to its propensity to drift and damage neighboring crops not genetically engineered to withstand it. The herbicide has been implicated in the damage of millions of acres of U.S. cropland, a concern that the EPA itself recognized, highlighting the environmental risk posed by spray drift and the potential for widespread contamination.
The plaintiffs in the case, including the National Family Farm Coalition and the Pesticide Action Network, expressed their relief and satisfaction with the ruling. Lisa Griffith of the National Family Farm Coalition stated, “We are grateful that the court held the EPA and Monsanto accountable for the massive damage from dicamba to farmers, farmworkers, and the environment, and halted its use.”
The implications of the court’s decision extend beyond the immediate revocation of dicamba’s approval. It calls into question the EPA’s pesticide approval process and underscores the need for stringent regulatory oversight to prevent similar environmental and agricultural damages in the future. Rob Faux, a farmer and communications manager at Pesticide Action Network, shared his experience, saying, “Every summer since the approval of dicamba, our farm has suffered significant damage to a wide range of vegetable crops. Today’s decision provides much-needed and overdue protection for farmers and the environment.”
This ruling follows a series of legal challenges against dicamba’s approval, including a 2022 judgment by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding Monsanto and BASF liable for damage to a Missouri peach farmer’s groves caused by dicamba. Moreover, a 2021 EPA report disclosed that high-ranking officials during the Trump administration had deliberately excluded scientific evidence of dicamba-related hazards before reapproving the chemical.
As the agricultural community and environmental advocates celebrate this victory, the ruling sets a precedent for future pesticide regulation, emphasizing the importance of transparency, public input, and environmental protection in the approval process. “The court today resoundingly reaffirmed our stance: The EPA’s and Monsanto’s claims of dicamba’s safety were irresponsible and unlawful,” concluded George Kimbrell of the CFS.