Dicamba. US justice blocks approval of glyphosate heir apparent

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On 3.6.20, the U.S. courts block the authorization of the sale and release into the environment of dicamba, designated heir to glyphosate.

The killer herbicide

Dicamba, as noted, is a broad-spectrum herbicide devised during World War II. It has never achieved the success of the better-known chemical pesticides-DDT, BHC, organophosphates, phenylacetic acids (e.g., 2,4-D, MCPA, 2,4,5-T), dioxins and Agent Orange, carbamates, neonicotinoids, glyphosate-because of its high volatility. With devastating effects on crops, gardens, orchards and shrubs even far from the areas where the agrotoxic is sprayed.

When the patent on glyphosate expired in 2000, however, Monsanto and BASF resumed work on this poisonous active ingredient. By adding new additives to it, to reduce its volatility and make a deadly new poison, destined to succeed RoundUp(glyphosate). The Big 4, the global pesticide and seed monopolists, have thus developed new GMO seeds capable of resisting–they alone–the ecocides caused by spraying the new dicamba-based herbicides into the environment.

GMO soybeans and dicamba-resistantGMO cotton have thus been proposed as the ‘solution’ to flood fields with the old killer herbicide in a new formula and thus destroy weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate over the years. The so-called superweeds, such as Palmer amaranth. Except, however, to devastate adjoining crops of soybeans, cotton and other non-genetically modified crops to resist them.

Experiments, damages, lawsuits

The open-field trial of reformulated dicamba-already awaiting its first conditional approvals from the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-has caused enormous damage to surrounding crops. Thousands of farmers have therefore filed compensation lawsuits against Monsanto (which was acquired by Bayer in 2016 for US$ 63 billion).

On 27.1.20 the District Court in Cape Girardeau (Missouri, USA) sentenced the two giants to a penalty of US$ 265 million, by way of ‘compensatory and punitive damages‘. The compensation suit was brought by Baden Farms, Missouri’s leading peach producer, which suffered the extermination of 30,000 fruit trees as a result of spraying the poison in question on nearby fields of dicamba-resistant GMO soybeans.

The outcome of the case was determined by the acquisition of the so-called Dicamba papers, which, with the contribution of testimony from a former Monsanto executive, enabled the court to ascertain how the Corporation already had knowledge of the serious environmental damage caused by the herbicide in question. Several hundred compensation cases are currently pending.

EPA, the controversial authorization

On 10/31/18, the U.S. deputy Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the sale and release of the notorious killer herbicide into the environment. Based solely on the documentation produced by the applicants (Bayer CropScience, BASF and Corteva Agrisciences). Who, as is customary, failed to report (or otherwise de-classified, i.e., underestimated) the ‘side effects’ of the agrotoxic.

On 11.1.19 a group of associations.National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, PAN (Pesticides Action Network) North America – have therefore taken legal action, to challenge the risk assessment criteria adopted by EPA for the purpose of authorizing dicamba-based herbicides. Given the ‘widespread damage’ to crops near areas where the agrotoxin was used and the looming threat to farms across the country.

US justice.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, ruling 3.6.20, acknowledged that EPA ‘substantially underestimated the risks‘ to off-target plant species. The agency violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in assessing risks as ‘potential‘ and ‘presumed‘. Indeed, documentary evidence shows that the killer herbicide ’caused substantial and undisputed damage.’ On at least 1.456 million hectares of crops, in 34 U.S. states, in summer 2018 (Prof. Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri, report).

‘I have never seen a herbicide that has so easily and frequently slipped the leash. Nor have I seen a herbicide that, once off the leash, would roam so far. Dicamba drift for the past three years has often traveled a half mile to three-quarters of a mile and, all too frequently, well beyond that‘ (Professor Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee)

Senior EPA officials had exact knowledge of the extent and severity of damage caused by the agrotoxin in the summers of 2016, 2017, 2018. The court collected copies of emails sent to them by academics and representatives of agricultural supply chains, as well as presentations given at conferences where they had attended. But such data have been deliberately ignored. The judges therefore canceled the 2018 approval of dicamba-based herbicides, the sale and use of which are banned until further notice.

Analysts estimate a loss of $80-90 million on 2020 sales for BASF, an even higher but unspecified one for Bayer which lost 3.4 percent capitalization on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in a single day on 4.6.20.

The monopoly of poisons

The U.S. justice also emphasized the monopolistic approach of the corporations. On poisons and GMO seeds designed to resist them. First on glyphosate, with over 90% of the soybean grown in the U.S. resistant to it, then with dicamba. Already in 2018, out of 41.7 million hectares planted with soybean and cotton, 23 were dicamba-resistant. The Monsanto, BASF and Corteva (formerly Dupont) triad ‘rips apart the social fabric of farming communities,’ forcing everyone to buy the new agrotoxin and carry out a new ecocide. (2) Those who resist run the risk of seeing their crops destroyed and go bankrupt, even before initiating yet another compensation lawsuit.

The US agricultural system is already in crisis because of the acute toxicity inflicted by agrotoxics on ecosystems, as scientific research has amply demonstrated. And the only salvation, it seems, may come from the judiciary, which overseas has already distinguished itself with exemplary sentences to Monsanto-Bayer, in connection with glyphosate ‘s damage to human health.

In Europe meanwhile, all is silent. Not even the scientific frauds behind the authorization of glyphosate were enough to wake up justice nor institutions. And dicamba-resistant GMO soybeans, ça va sans dir, have already been approved.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) National Family Farm Coalition et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 19-70115, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco). The text of pronouncement 3.6.20 at https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Court-decision-on-dicamba.pdf
(2) See free ebook ‘GMOs, the Big Scam,’ at https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/libri/ogm-la-grande-truffa