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EPA examines Bayer herbicide accused of extensive damage to crop



(Reuters) – The US Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating whether the dicamba herbicide can be sprayed safely on soybean and cotton plants that are genetically modified to resist the chemical, without the procedure posing "unreasonable risks" to other crops, an official said. on Tuesday.

Farmers and researchers have for years reported problems with dicamba drifting away from where it is sprayed in the field, causing damage to nearby plants that have not been modified to resist the herbicide.

EPA said they received about 3 500 reports this. years, indicating that more than one million acres of non-dicamba-tolerant soybean crops are alleged to have been damaged when the chemical drifted from where it was applied. Trees and crops such as rice and grapes also suffered damage, the authority said.

The number, severity and geographical extent of the incidents were similar last year, although the EPA had tightened restrictions on the use of dicamba for the 2021

growing season, the agency said.

"Right now we do not know if over-the-top dicamba can be used in a way that does not pose unreasonable risks to non-target crops and other plants," said Michal Freedhoff, EPA Assistant Administrator.

EPA evaluates all its options to address future dicamba-related incidents, Freedhoff said.

Additional restrictions would be a blow to Bayer AG, which also sells the herbicide under the name XtendiMax as seeds for growing dicamba-resistant crops. The company has settled lawsuits filed by landowners claiming their crops were damaged by neighbors using dicamba.

Bayer said they believe the EPA's latest restrictions on use, announced in October 2020, "helped the vast majority of XtendiMax herbicide users to succeed with weed control and target applications this season. "

Some farmers and seed companies have urged regulators to limit spraying to before crops are planted. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, said the EPA should impose "a complete ban."

Rule changes will probably not be fully implemented by the 2022 growing season, the EPA said. The agency said it would cooperate with states seeking to impose further restrictions.

A U.S. appellate court blocked the sale of dicamba in June 2020 and ruled that the EPA had underestimated the risks associated with its use. Four months later, under former President Donald Trump, the EPA approved the use of dicamba-based herbicides with new restrictions, which annulled the court decision.

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