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  • Soy leaves damaged by the weedkiller dicamba as part of research into whether the herbicide drifts, U.S., August 2, 2018.

    Soy leaves damaged by the weedkiller dicamba as part of research into whether the herbicide drifts, U.S., August 2, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 August 2018

The United States faces a weedkiller crisis caused by dicamba-based herbicides, which farmers and experts say harm crops because they evaporate and disperse.

Environmental groups argued in federal appeals court on Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to analyze the risks Bayer AG Monsanto’s dicamba-based weed killer posed to nearby crops before approving it in 2016.

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The groups, which filed a lawsuit in February, want the court to force the EPA to vacate its approval of XtendiMax, arguing it not only harms nearby crops and plants but wildlife as well. It is not clear whether the court has the authority to revoke an EPA approval.

“The EPA’s declaration that XtendiMax would have no effect on plants and animals was arbitrary and capricious,” Paul Achitoff, a lawyer for non-profit Earthjustice, told a three-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle during a hearing.

The arguments come at a critical time for Monsanto and other agrochemical companies that developed dicamba-based products, such as BASF SE’s Engenia and DowDuPont Inc’s FeXapan. The EPA is currently deciding whether to renew dicamba’s sales license, which expires on Nov. 8, for the next growing season.

Monsanto, a unit of Bayer, urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Dicamba is used in part to destroy weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, another herbicide developed by Monsanto. Monsanto denies crop damage was caused by XtendiMax and says drift occurred because farmers illegally applied older dicamba formulations or failed to follow instructions.

Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann during an analyst call last week said his company was in discussions with the EPA about the sales license renewal and expects the agency to decide by October.

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