The Environmental Protection Agency, now headed by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist
The EPA’s action ends the Arkansas Plant Board’s statewide ban on the weed killer’s use, the Associated Press has reported. The AP quoted Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, as saying the “reckless re-approval of this dangerous poison ignores damage to crops, natural areas and backyard gardens of millions of acres.”
Though scientists recommended 443-foot in-field buffers between where dicamba is sprayed on cotton and soybean fields and where there could be endangered species, Wheeler’s EPA changed those buffers to 57 feet. Downwind buffers will remain at 110 feet.
The Plant Board, after receiving hundreds of complaints about the dicamba damage, banned its use. A Clay County court appealed, but the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the board. The board has announced it will review the EPA changes.
David Koon wrote about the dicamba fight, which pitted farmers of genetically engineered soybeans and cotton and those who farmed dicamba-susceptible crops, in the Times last year. One farmer, Mike Wallace of Monette, even lost his life in the battle over the weed-killer; he was shot by a man who worked on a nearby farm after Wallace complained the farm’s dicamba drift was ruining his crops.
Dicamba will kill crops that aren’t genetically engineered to withstand it, and drift from spraying damaged 850,000 acres in Arkansas, a report released last year by the University of Missouri said. Besides crops and endangered species, there are concerns about pollinators. The EPA addressed the effect of dicamba on pollinators this way:
Conservative, screening-level risk assessments have determined that this use of dicamba on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean, when used according to label directions, does not exceed EPA’s level of concern for pollinators, including bees. [Times emphasis.] Therefore, we expect there will be no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.
What is the EPA’s level of concern? Wheeler’s appears to be little.