For a second time, US court bans dicamba weed killers, finds EPA violated law

By Johnathan Hettinger

Dealing a blow to three of the world’s biggest agrochemical companies, a US court this week banned three weed killers widely used in American agriculture, finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law in allowing them to be on the market.

The ruling is specific to three dicamba-based weed killers manufactured by Bayer, BASF and Syngenta, which have been blamed for millions of acres of crop damage and harm to endangered species and natural areas across the Midwest and South.

This is the second time a federal court has banned these weed killers since they were introduced for the 2017 growing season. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own ban, but months later the Trump administration re-approved the weed killing products, just one week before the presidential election at a press conference in the swing state of Georgia.

But a federal judge in Arizona ruled late Monday that the EPA made a crucial error in re-approving dicamba, finding the agency did not post it for public notice and comment as required by law. US District Judge David Bury wrote in a 47-page ruling that it is a “very serious” violation and that if EPA did do a full analysis, it likely would not have made the same decision.

Bury wrote that the EPA did not allow many people who are deeply impacted by the weed killer – including specialty farmers, conservation groups and more – to comment.

The lawsuit was filed by farmer and conservation groups that said EPA violated two laws in its approval: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act.

EPA spokesman Jeffrey Landis said the agency is still reviewing the ruling but declined to comment further.

“Time and time again, the evidence has shown that dicamba cannot be used without causing massive and unprecedented harm to farms as well as endangering plants and pollinators,” said George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which litigated the case.