EPA Defies Court Order to Halt the Use of Dicamba

President Trump’s administration demonstrated its complete disregard for the environment and human health in a myriad of ways. One of those ways involved disregarding a court order regarding an herbicide called dicamba.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered two dicamba products and extended the registration for another dicamba product for applications on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans. The decision allows dicamba to be in use from 2021 to 2025. Both products will expire in December 2025 “unless the EPA takes further action to amend the registration,” according to the federal agency’s announcement

The EPA’s decision to register dicamba ignores a court order on June 3, 2020 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the use of dicamba. The court cited the EPA’s failure to acknowledge the risks the herbicide poses to the environment and conventional crops. On June 8, the EPA told growers they could continue using dicamba until July 31. 

First registered in 1967, dicamba is a widely used herbicide in the U.S. It is used on crops, pastures, fallow land, turfgrass, and rangeland to kill weeds. The herbicide is also registered for use in residential areas and other non-agricultural sites. Over 1,000 products sold in the U.S. include dicamba. 

“Protecting the pesticide industry has been a top priority of the EPA during the Trump administration,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. “Millions of acres of crops will continue to be damaged, and the health of farmworkers, children, and all those who live near farms where dicamba is used will be at risk – all in the name of appeasing chemical agriculture.”

Environmental, health effects of dicamba herbicide

The EPA claims it “conducted robust evaluations of the risks to human health and the environment.” Yet its decision to register three forms of dicamba shows it ignored the scientific evidence that the herbicide poses environmental and health threats. One of the environmental problems dicamba causes is pesticide drift. Older versions of dicamba caused pesticide drift so they were typically not used much during warm months when they could kill trees or other crops. In 2016, the EPA approved the registration of new formulations of dicamba that allowed for “over-the-top” applications on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean plants. 

Scientists warned that the over-the-top applications would cause damage from drift. Complaints about drift damage have increased in several farm states since the introduction of the new applications. In 2017, the EPA tallied 2,708 official dicamba-related crop injury investigations, with 3.6 million acres of soybeans affected. 

Dicamba is a threat to monarch butterflies. The Center for Biological Diversity found that the timing and the geographical distribution of dicamba use coincide with areas where monarch eggs and caterpillars are found on milkweed. The herbicide degrades milkweed which adult monarchs rely on for nectar. As monarchs travel south for the winter, nectar is their only food source. One percent of the minimum dicamba application rate is enough to reduce the size of milkweed by 50 percent. 

The EPA ignores its own evidence that dicamba presents a risk to human health. A 2016 study by the federal agency found that the biggest health risk from either drinking water or dicamba residue on food is found within children one to two years old. 

There are studies linking dicamba use with cancer and thyroid problems. The most recent study found a higher risk of liver, intrahepatic bile duct cancer, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. A 2010 study found a strong association between dicamba and cancer among those who applied it, while a 2001 study found an association between dicamba and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Dicamba is linked to thyroid problems. A 2018 study found a significantly increased risk between dicamba and hypothyroidism. Another study done five years prior found “increased odds” of hypothyroidism and dicamba.

What you can do

While it is highly unlikely the Trump administration will halt the use of dicamba, a new administration takes office in January. Start tweeting to Joe Biden and demand that his administration ban the over-the-top applications of dicamba. 


Image by Peter Miller on Flickr

Green Wave 2020 Aims To Put Environmentally Friendly Candidates In Office

President Trump’s environmental policies mostly consist of rolling back Obama-era policies dealing with climate change. Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. That action put the U.S. in the role of being the only country expressing intent to withdraw from the agreement. Trump can’t officially withdraw until the day after the 2020 election. That makes November 3 an important day for environmentalists. 

In early October, a coalition of environmental organizations launched a project to elect environmentally-friendly candidates. Green Wave 2020 is a joint project of Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, EDF Action, the NRDC Action Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund to mobilize the members of the organization to help elect environmental champions in November. The organizations created a list of over 30 congressional races where the targeted candidate has a strong environmental track record or platform. Many of the candidates in the 30 prioritized races are running against someone how denies climate change. 

Green Wave 2020 involves more than 70 professional organizers in 15 states who mobilize environmental group members volunteering to help elect environmentally-friendly candidates. The organizers provide members with remote phone and text banking opportunities, along with other online tools. The project mobilizes thousands of environmental group members. 

“The stakes for the environment, for our climate, and for communities suffering the worst consequences of toxic pollution across the nation have never been more stark than in 2020,” said Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz. “This unprecedented mobilization of our collective membership, including millions of members nationwide, will also help build lasting infrastructure in key states and districts that environmental champions running for office can rely upon for future election cycles.”

Turning a red state green

Arizona is typically a red state where Republican candidates tend to flourish. The state’s three congressional races each make the priority list of the Green Wave 2020. Those three races include a senate seat. Mark Kelly (D) hopes to unseat incumbent Senator Martha McSally (R) to win John McCain’s former seat. A glance at the websites of both candidates shows why the project focuses on Arizona. McSally’s site does not even mention her environmental views, while Kelly’s site contains information on his views on climate change and the environment.

McSally’s site states that she supported Trump’s repeal of the 16 Obama-era regulations. The League of Conservation Voters gave her a six percent on its National Environmental Scorecard. That ranking put her on the organization’s Dirty Dozen that targets the most anti-environment candidates. McSally voted against the Clean Power Plan, efforts to boost Arizona’s clean energy economy, and clean air protections. Phoenix has one of the worst air basins in the country. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2020 report ranked Phoenix among the top 10 most polluted cities for ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution.

Kelly wants to boost Arizona’s clean energy economy. His site points out that the sector employs 10,500 people in the state. He wants to triple that number by “making massive investments in research and development of technologies that make renewable energy more competitive and accelerate the transition to a renewable economy.” The LCV endorses him for the senate. 

Green Wave 2020: What you can do

Join Green Wave 2020. Vow to vote for candidates that champion the environment and work to mitigate climate change. As EDF Action President Joe Bonfiglio said, “The stakes in this year’s elections are incredibly high.” 


Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash