Lawsuit Filed Against EPA For Approval Of New BASF Herbicide

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The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of trifludimoxazin, an herbicide intended for pre- and/or post-emergent control of broadleaf and grass weeds. BASF defended the safety of the herbicide ingredient and need for additional weed management options for farmers.

As farmers continue to face weed resistance issues, BASF sought registration for its herbicide Tirexor, the first new mode of action for burndown of grass weeds in 20 years. Trifludimoxazin is the active ingredient in the herbicide, although the product is not yet available in the United States.

The groups’ lawsuit alleges EPA violated the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act by discounting impacts of spray drift and runoff to terrestrial and aquatic plants, fish, and threatened and endangered species.

As a highly complementary and compatible mixing partner, it features durable residual activity and displays strong performance on weeds with low use rates. Additionally, it is flexible enough for use on multiple crops. Targeted crop and non-crop opportunities include corn, soybean, cereals, peanut, citrus, pome fruit, tree nuts, oil palm, pulse crops and total vegetation management.

Miracle King-Wilson, public relations manager for BASF Agricultural Solutions of North America, notes the registration EPA provided for the product in May of this year was the result of more than 32 months of evaluation by the EPA.

“BASF continues to work alongside the EPA to provide the necessary information and data it requires to approve these types of registrations, and as the authority on these matters, we stand by its decision with regard to the benefits and safety of these products when used according to their labels,” King-Wilson notes.

BASF explains Tirexor works by inhibiting the enzyme protoporphyrinogen oxidase thereby disrupting the cell membrane of plants. It uses a novel binding mechanism for optimal control and burndown of broadleaf and grass weeds, which have encountered significant weed resistance issues.

“Growers continue to need solutions and technologies to control their toughest weeds. BASF believes in the value these herbicides can add to farming operations across the country, which is why we continue to invest in bringing these solutions to market following the regulatory requirements administered by authorities like the EPA,” King-Wilson says.

The environmental groups claim the agency admitted in its response to public comments that it was ignoring the clear requirements of the law, leaving endangered species without any protections for potentially a decade or more. Some endangered species at risk from trifludimoxazin include the Monarch butterfly, Chinook salmon, rusty-patched bumblebee, and other fish, insects and wild plants. There are also concerns about potential impacts to aquatic plants and organisms, as there is currently no mitigation to address runoff.

“It’s disappointing that even with the change in administration, EPA is continuing to approve new pesticides that harm the environment, farmers, endangered species, and human health-without a thorough consideration of these harms,” says Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “EPA admits that spray drift and runoff of trifludimoxazin are likely to cause damage to non-target crops, wild plants, and fish, yet it failed to implement measures that could help to reduce those risks.”

The environmental groups claim trifludimoxazin is roughly ten times more potent on soybeans than dicamba, the herbicide whose spray and vapor drift and runoff has caused unprecedented damage across many millions of acres of soybeans the past several years. Dicamba’s previous approval was vacated by the Ninth Circuit just last year; CFS and allies’ lawsuit challenging dicamba’s most recent registration is currently under review in the Ninth Circuit.

“EPA’s approval of trifludimoxazin is incredibly irresponsible, since its own analysis shows this herbicide will cause considerable drift damage to plants over 1,000 feet from field’s edge, with absolutely no buffer zones or other effective measures to protect these plants or the organisms that depend on them,” says Bill Freese, science director at the Center for Food Safety.

The EPA’s registration decision and label contain very little in the way of mandatory mitigation measures, increasing the likelihood of harm when the herbicide is applied in real-world conditions, the environmental groups add. The registration of trifludimoxazin will allow it to be used on many major crops as well as on large amounts of sensitive non-agricultural areas. This broad registration means it may be used on millions of acres and pose a significant risk to protected and non-protected plants and the wildlife that depend on them. It will also result in significant risks to fish, the environmental groups claim.