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On November 9, 2016, Roundup manufacturer Monsanto announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had approved another of their products: XtendiMax. This is a new herbicide that combines glyphosate, the main herbicide in Roundup, with dicamba, a synthetic herbicide which farmers have used for decades to control weeds.

In the past, farmers have used dicamba only during certain times of the year. This new combination product is designed to be used with Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant soybean and cotton crops, which will result in more widespread use.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit conservation association, has already raised concerns that dicamba can drift to other fields and kill healthy crops. And has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking communications between the EPA and Monsanto regarding XtendiMax’s “fast-track” approval.

“This herbicide is projected to become the most-used pesticide in agriculture,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center, “yet the EPA approved it with zero public input. It raises serious questions about the far-too-cozy relationship between the EPA and Monsanto.”

Monsanto Already Under Scrutiny

The relationship between the Roundup manufacturer and the EPA is already under scrutiny. Documents obtained in the Roundup litigation revealed that Monsanto may have tried to influence scientific research on the safety of its product. The New York Times reported last August that former Monsanto employees had expressed discomfort about “deceptive authorship” on presentations and publications.

Earlier this year, elected members of the European Parliament wrote a letter to the judge overseeing the consolidated Roundup lawsuits in California, asking for assistance on determining whether glyphosate causes cancer.

The EU relies on scientific studies to determine the potential risks of a substance, but studies on glyphosate have produced conflicting results. In addition, the so-called “Monsanto Papers” have revealed that Monsanto authored some scientific studies on the herbicide, downplaying its risks, and those studies were then attributed to scientists.

Crops in U.S. Already Injured by Dicamba

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity is concerned that Monsanto may be taking advantage of its relationships with U.S. regulators to obtain XtendiMax’s approval. Dicamba, the new pesticide added to the solution, has already been linked with injuring healthy crops in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and other states.

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at the University of Missouri reported in August 2017 that there were 2,242 dicamba-related injury investigations taking place across the country. It is estimated that around 3.1 million acres of soybean crops have been injured by dicamba.

“Any product that increases the use of a dangerous pesticide like dicamba is bad news for wildlife and human health,” said Donley. Monsanto reportedly worked with the BASF Corporation to develop Roundup Xtend to address the growing problem that a wide variety of crops and weeds have started to develop a resistance to Roundup, so Monsanto needed to develop a new product that could kill these resistant weeds.

The new combination product is meant to be used on genetically modified crops sold by Monsanto that are resistant to glyphosate and dicamba. Yet because the pesticide can easily drift, farmers raising nearby crops that don’t use the Monsanto seeds are at risk for damage.

Following the release of the Monsanto papers, the EPA opened an investigation into potential communications between high-ranking officials in its office and Monsanto managers.

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