Agency ignores mounting calls to ban dicamba on crops
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will forgo a ban in favour of minor new restrictions on the pesticide dicamba, which has damaged an estimated 5 million acres of crops, trees and backyard gardens over the past two years. The pesticide will be approved for another two years with the additional restrictions in place.
“The Trump EPA’s reckless re-approval of this dangerous poison ignores the facts on the ground and damage across millions of acres,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Simply adding more use restrictions to an uncontrollable pesticide that already comes with 39 pages of instructions and limitations reflects a broken process. Pesticide regulation has been hijacked by pesticide makers.”
The new restrictions tied to the re-approval include a 57-foot buffer around fields where endangered species may be present and limitations on what times during the day the pesticide can be sprayed.
Last year the EPA introduced additional restrictions, vetted and approved by Monsanto, that it hoped would prevent off-target damage. As predicted by independent researchers, those new restrictions were largely ineffective, resulting in damage to an estimated 1 million acres of crops, vegetables, ornamental species and trees by July 15 of this year.
“How many more millions of acres need to be poisoned for the EPA to stand up and finally do its job?” said Donley. “It’s going to take far stronger action to curb dicamba’s well-documented dangers to non-target plants and wildlife like monarch butterflies.”
Highly toxic dicamba products are designed for use primarily on next-generation soybeans genetically engineered to resist what would normally be a fatal dose of the pesticide. The current label for new dicamba products, which lays out the restrictions and directions for the pesticide’s use, takes up 39 pages and more than 16,000 words.
The EPA’s own analysis of dicamba indicated that many threatened and endangered species — including birds and mammals — may be harmed by the massive increase in the herbicide’s use. Yet the agency unilaterally decided to ignore these harms instead of consulting with federal wildlife experts.
Earlier this year a Center report found that more than 60 million acres of monarch butterfly habitat are projected to be sprayed with dicamba by next year. Dicamba can degrade monarch habitat in two ways: by harming flowering plants that provide nectar for adults as they travel south for the winter and by harming milkweed, which, as the only food of monarch caterpillars, is essential for the butterfly’s reproduction.
Monarch butterfly populations have been hard hit by pesticides, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether to give Endangered Species Act protections to the iconic migratory butterfly.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity