Monsanto loses bid to stop ban

Arkansas restricted use of dicamba from April to October after complaints from farmers last year that spray drift damaged neighbouring crops

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — An Arkansas judge has dismissed a Monsanto lawsuit aiming to stop Arkansas from blocking the use of a controversial farm chemical the company makes, dealing a blow to its attempts to increase sales of genetically modified crops.

Monsanto, which is being acquired by Bayer AG, filed the lawsuit last year in a bid to halt the state’s ban on spraying of dicamba from April 16 to Oct. 31.

Growers across the U.S. farm belt said last summer that dicamba drifted away from where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of crops that could not tolerate the herbicides.

Monsanto said it was disappointed with the judge’s decision and would consider additional legal action.

In the ruling, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza cited a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision that the state cannot be made a defendant in court, according to the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Dicamba, also sold by BASF and Dow DuPont, is meant to be used during the summer growing season on soybeans and cotton that Monsanto genetically modified to resist the chemical.

Monsanto is banking on the herbicide and its dicamba-resistant soybean varieties to dominate soybean production in the United States. The company says dicamba, which it sells under the name XtendiMax with VaporGrip, is safe when used properly.

The Arkansas ban hurts Monsanto’s ability to sell dicamba-tolerant seed in the state and has caused “irreparable harm” to the company, according to Monsanto’s lawsuit. The state also limited use of Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide in 2017 but allowed sales of products by other companies.

David Wildy, an Arkansas farmer who served on a state task force that recommended the ban, said he supported the recent court ruling. He said his soybeans suffered damage from the herbicide last year and that it threatens plants ranging from flowers to vegetables and peanuts when it drifts away from where it is sprayed.

“If we can’t keep products on target, then there’s not a place for them in agriculture,” Wildy said.

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