Trump administration political appointees took an unusually hands-on approach to regulation of the herbicide dicamba and created an environment where career staffers felt constrained and muted while considering its approvals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s watchdog said.
In a scathing report Monday, the EPA’s inspector general said the agency’s flawed decision-making process left legally vulnerable extended registrations for dicamba that were ultimately vacated by the Ninth Circuit based on violations of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
The report said that even though the agency had written guidelines to preserve the scientific integrity of its actions, the process for dicamba fell short of that goal and thus fell short of the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment.
An EPA spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday that scientific integrity is a top priority of the Biden administration and that the agency has now renewed its commitment to “protecting human health and the environment by following science and making evidence-based decisions to rely on the input of career scientists.”
Dicamba is the active ingredient in herbicides sold by Monsanto under the brand name XtendiMax, and in products produced by DuPont spinoff Corteva Inc. and BASF SE, and was initially approved for use as a spray on cotton and soybeans in 2016.
After the EPA continued its approval in 2018, several environmental groups including the Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America challenged the approval. In June the 9th Circ canceled the approval, but the EPA once again greenlighted the herbicide’s use. Farmers and environmental groups continue to challenge it.