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Daily News Blog

03
Aug

Emails Show EPA Let Monsanto Write the Rules on Its Toxic, Drift-Prone Herbicide

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2018) Documents made public in late July show that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) let Monsanto write its own rules after farmers and the public raised red flags over crop damage and contamination caused by its new line of dicamba herbicides. As part of the discovery process initiated by a lawsuit against EPA’s approval of its new dicamba product, called “XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology,” emails released (start at p. 147) show Monsanto line-editing regulations first proposed by EPA. This is only the latest in a long string of instances where EPA has worked hand in glove with the agrichemical industry it is charged with overseeing.

When the new regulations were released, Beyond Pesticides’ noted broad criticism that the changes will not adequately address the damage caused by this new herbicide. The newest product in the agrichemical industry’s predictable trajectory toward increasingly toxic cropping systems, XtendiMax was developed to be sprayed on corn and soy genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide. As its flagship Roundup Ready products have failed to control resistant weeds in farm fields throughout the U.S., Monsanto and others in the agrichemical industry continue to reach back towards older, more toxic pesticides to maintain their profits and market share.

However, shortly after its release, reports streamed into state agriculture agencies indicating that drift from the product was damaging nearby farms. In many agricultural communities, use of this product has pitted neighbor against neighbor. A National Public Radio report in October indicated that a dispute between two individuals over dicamba drift led to the murder of one Arkansas farmer. In June 2017, University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station had over 100 acres of soybeans ruined from nearby dicamba use. And late last month, a Kansas farmer filed a legal complaint against Monsanto alleging that the company knew its dicamba herbicide would harm non-target crops, but marketed and sold the product anyway.

In the emails, top-level staff at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs provided drafts of proposed terms and conditions to lawyer Phillip Perry, husband of Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, of the firm Latham and Watkins, representing Monsanto. The documents were returned by Mr. Perry with specific edits. Mr. Perry wrote, “We accepted a number of the proposed changes, but did not incorporate all the iterative communications with retailers proposed in the last draft. In particular, we are concerned that those iterative communications might require a potentially significant period of time to complete.” EPA allowed Monsanto to rewrite that section on guidance to retailers.

A subsequent email announcing the final draft, sent by EPA’s Reuben Baris, acting chief of EPA’s Herbicide Branch, to Monsanto lawyer Thomas Marvin read, “Like I said, no surprises.”

In EPA’s original announcement of the new regulations, the agency quoted former Administrator Scott Pruitt as saying, “Today’s actions are the result of intensive, collaborative efforts, working side by side with the states and university scientists from across the nation who have first-hand knowledge of the problem and workable solutions.” However, from the documents released, it is evident that EPA’s collaboration focused primarily with industry, rather than states and university scientists.

In the absence of any leadership from EPA, states have been forced to take measures to protect their agricultural economy. Restrictions are in place or being considered in a number of states, including North Dakota and Minnesota. Missouri has proposed a rule restricting dicamba and 2,4-D during the growing season, and Arkansas has implemented the toughest restrictions on dicamba in the U.S. after a lawsuit by Monsanto failed to stop it from going forward.

While the Monsanto moniker is likely on the way out as it merges with Bayer (Bayer has indicated it will drop the name Monsanto entirely when the deal is complete), there is no doubt that the agrichemical industry will seek to maintain its cozy relationship and revolving door with EPA regulators.  As industry continues to write its own rules for its toxic cropping systems, fruit and vegetable growers, and organic farmers will likewise suffer as drift and contamination increases alongside GE acres planted. Help decrease demand for GE products by purchasing organic whenever possible. Organic certification means toxic synthetic herbicides like dicamba and GE materials are never allowed within products that sport the label. By buying organic you support environmentally sustainable organic farms and an increase in organic acreage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Investigate Midwest

 

 

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