Energy & Environment

EPA reapproves use of pesticide previously struck down in court

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved for five years the use of two products with the weedkiller dicamba on cotton and soybeans that are resistant to it.

It also extended the use of a third product. 

The agency’s prior approval of dicamba was vacated in court over its impacts on other crops that it can harm.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the decision will provide “certainty to growers as they make future purchasing decisions.” He said the new approval circumvents issues with the prior approval by increasing the size of buffer zones between dicamba-sprayed crops and other crops and also increasing the buffer size for endangered species. 

A study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute from earlier this year also linked dicamba use to liver and bile duct cancer. 

However, the EPA continued to find that dicamba was not likely to be carcinogenic, saying that it identified “several deficiencies” in the study. 

Wheeler told reporters on Tuesday that states would be allowed to both further restrict the use of dicamba and also further expand it. 

He added that expansion wouldn’t be “automatic” and that the states would have to file the  “appropriate requests” with the agency. 

The EPA previously reapproved dicamba in 2018 to control weeds on cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered to tolerate it. At the time, opponents argued that other crops that are not resistant to dicamba may be impacted by its usage. 

In response to challenges, a federal court ruled earlier this year that in the 2018 reapproval, the EPA “substantially understated” certain risks posed by the chemical’s use. 

Critics invoked the 2018 reapproval in their opposition to the new reapproval. 

“Given EPA-approved versions of dicamba have already damaged millions of U.S. acres of crops and natural areas there’s no reason to trust that the agency got it right this time,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.

“At this point, the EPA has shown such callous indifference to the damage dicamba has caused to farmers and wildlife alike, and has been so desperate to appease the pesticide industry, it has zero credibility when it comes to pesticide safety,” Donley said. 

Tags Andrew Wheeler Pesticides
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