June 9, 2020


Bayer weed killer used in soybean farming banned in the US


Bayer AG has been blocked by the US appeals court from selling its agricultural weed killer in the United States used by soybean farmers, Reuters reported.


The court ruling found that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) understated the risks related to the chemical dicamba, used in herbicides sold by Bayer and other companies to spray on genetically engineered soybeans and cotton. The herbicides can drift away and damage other non-resistant crops.


Bayer AG, based in Germany, inherited this court case when it purchased Monsanto for US$63 billion in 2018. Environmental groups have called for EPA to cancel its approval for Monsanto's XtendiMax herbicide which uses diacamba as it affects nearby wildlife and plants.


Other dicamba-based herbicides also banned by the threejudge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals include the products Engenia from BASF and FeXapan from Corteva Agriscience.


The judgement was opposed by Bayer and BASF. Corteva said dicamba can be used safely.


Bayer said it will obtain new EPA registration for the herbicide for 2021 onwards. The EPA said it will take into account the court's decision and address its order.


Sonny Perdue, US Agriculture Secretary said the ruling was unclear whether soybean farmers who have already purchased products dicamba are allowed to use them.


Gunther Zechmann, an analyst for Bernstein said EPA restrictions on dicamba use in 2018 have been adapted by companies, so the ruling will have little effect on dicamba use for next year's planting season. However, he said the ruling could cost Bayer about US$34 million in lost earnings.


Reed Storey, a farmer from Arkansas said he was heartened by the ruling as dicamba sprayed on neighboring fields from 2016 to 2018 ruined his soybean crops.


Farmers and seed dealers said the court ruling could mean farmers will change from using Xtend soybean seeds from Bayer (which are dicamba-resistant) to using Corteva's Enlist E3 soybeans.


More than half of US soy plantings use Xtend soybean seeds, as farmers begin to use the product to protect their crops from dicamba sprayed by neighbouring plantations. Some weeds also became glyphosate resistant.


The American Soybean Association said it regrets the future of dicamba as it effectively kills weeds when responsibly used.


-      Reuters

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