Why the EPA should ban destructive dicamba herbicides for healthier farms

We’re launching a campaign calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to ban a destructive herbicide, dicamba. Here’s why.

Sprayer in Illinois | Roman Boed via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Sprayer in Illinois | Roman Boed via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Dicamba is an herbicide that is notorious for getting picked up by the wind, drifting miles from the intended target – even days after it’s sprayed. When these dangerous chemicals land, they can wipe out crops on neighboring farms and create toxic impacts for surrounding communities.

Dicamba has been linked to several types of cancer, harm to wildlife and serious damage to any crops that aren’t engineered to be dicamba-resistant.

One of its makers, Bayer’s Monsanto, even predicted that this would happen. According to the company’s internal documents, the company saw this not as a problem, but as a way to bring in new customers, because farmers would be forced to buy dicamba-resistant seeds to prevent further damage to their farms from their neighbors’ spraying.

Year after year, farmers’ complaints about dicamba damage to their crops have increased. Last year set a new record for destruction caused by dicamba, despite the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituting reforms that were supposed to reduce the harm caused by the pesticide.

To make matters worse, it’s already becoming less effective at its job. Dicamba has only been in widespread use since 2017, but dicamba-resistant weeds are already making it less effective. Major agribusinesses make it very difficult for farmers to get off this and other harmful pesticides by locking them into contracts or pushing products that increase their yield in the short term, but ultimately lock them into pesticide-intensive growing practices.

Farmers should be able to make decisions about what to plant and how to sustainably grow food and maintain their farmland’s health. And the public should be confident that the food in their grocery stores doesn’t deliver a dose of toxic pesticides that puts people’s health at risk.

We need to protect public health, and the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers, by banning dicamba. This will not only make an immediate impact for the safety of our food and farms, but also help to end farmers’ reliance on major agribusinesses. 

That’s why we’re calling on the EPA to end the use of dicamba by the end of this year.

We believe the EPA will take action if we show them that the American public and the experts – farmers, scientists and members of impacted communities – want them to ban dicamba.

The EPA has already started to recognize the problems with dicamba. This is why the agency instituted reforms last year that were meant to help limit the damage. And we know that the EPA is willing to step up and take more decisive action when it’s called for: After PIRG delivered 27,000 petition signatures calling on the EPA to ban another toxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, from use on all food crops, the agency took action, banning it last fall.

The EPA has indicated that it may be ready to make a final decision on dicamba this year. We need to make sure they make a decision that protects farmers and communities from this dangerous drifting herbicide.

We need to stand up for the vitality of America’s farm communities. If we successfully convince the EPA to end the use of dicamba, we will free communities across the country from health problems and a contaminated environment. And we will be one step closer to ensuring that the food Americans buy at their grocery stores is free from toxic herbicides.

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Danielle Melgar

Food & Agriculture, Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Danielle works to ensure our food system produces enough nutritious food to feed everyone, without threatening our health, the planet, or the ability of future generations to grow food. Danielle lives in Chicago, where she enjoys staying active in the outdoors, trying out new recipes, and writing short stories.

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