US Court Blocks Bayer’s Dicamba Weed Killer

A U.S. appeals court has blocked the sales of Bayer AG’s dicamba-based Xtendimax in the United States.

The three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstated the protections and substantially understated or ignored the risks related to the use of dicamba-based herbicides.

The case was bought by environmental groups including, National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

The EPA had originally approved the registration for the herbicide in 2016 and extended its approval of registration for another two years in October 2018, which is to expire in December. Bayer is already working with the EPA on a new registration for the 2021 growing season and beyond.

Dicamba is a chemical found in herbicides sold by Bayer and rivals that are sprayed on genetically engineered soybeans and cotton.

Bayer’s Xtendimax is a product of Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in a $63 billion deal in 2018. In its trail Bayer also inherited many lawsuits of Monsanto.

In late May, reports had stated that Bayer reached verbal agreements to resolve most of the Roundup weed killer lawsuits. The company was likely to make the announcement following the Board approvals of the settlements.

In September 2018, Bayer became actively involved in defense efforts in the glyphosate trials and other legal disputes, such as potential claims for damages in connection with the product Dicamba, against Monsanto.

In mid-February, a US jury awarded $265 million to a Missouri farmer who said the company’s dicamba herbicide had devastated his peach orchards. Farmer Bill Bader sued Bayer and chemical producer BASF, arguing their weed killer had drifted onto his trees from nearby farms.

American farmers have been using dicamba to combat weeds for more than fifty years. Though dicamba is an effective weed killer, its toxicity is not limited to weeds as it can also kill many desirable broadleaf plants, bushes, and trees.

By the early 2000s, many weeds had developed a resistance to the widely used herbicide glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup brand-name products sold by the Monsanto. In response, Monsanto developed and patented genes that allowed soybean and cotton crops to tolerate dicamba.

The dicamba-based herbicides can drift away and damage other crops that are not resistant as well as nearby plants, vegetables, fruit trees, residential trees, gardens and wildlife. It is reportedly blamed for damaging 3.6 million acres of untreated soybeans in 2017, and more than 1 million acres in 2018.

The court also blocked the sales of other dicamba-based herbicides – Corteva Agriscience’s FeXapan and BASF’s Engenia. However, the court decision does not impact Syngenta’s dicamba herbicide Tavium.

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