In Blow to Monsanto, Arkansas Ban on Controversial Herbicide to Remain

Monsanto lost its bid to overturn Arkansas' ban on dicamba, a controversial weedkiller linked to extensive damage to famers' crops in the state as well as several other states.

The agribusiness giant makes a version of the herbicide called XtendiMax that's paired with its seeds that are genetically engineered to resist the product. DuPont Co. and BASF SE also sell their own dicamba-based formulations.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed Monsanto's lawsuit Friday citing a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling which held that the state cannot be made a defendant in court.

"We are disappointed in the court's decision to dismiss our legal challenge of the plant board's restrictions, and we will consider additional legal steps that might be appropriate," Scott Partridge, the company's vice president of global strategy, told the Associated Press in a statement. "We look forward to the day when Arkansas growers can benefit from the latest weed-control technology on the market."

The AP further reported:

"Among other arguments, Monsanto claimed that the state did not consider the economic impact of the ban. The company also challenged the makeup of the 18-member board, arguing a state law that gives private groups such as the state Seed Growers Association power to appoint members violates Arkansas' constitution. Piazza said he wouldn't going to rule specifically on the request for a preliminary injunction in case his dismissal ruling is appealed and sent back to his court."

Monsanto—which expects farmers to plant 40 million acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans and 6 million acres of a cotton version across the U.S. this year—sued the Arkansas State Plant Board over its decision to ban the herbicide's sale and use between April 16 and Oct. 31. The regulators made the decision after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints last year over dicamba damage.

The powerful and drift-prone herbicide has been blamed for damaging more than three millions of acres of non-target crops across the country. Other states such as Tennessee and Missouri—Monsanto's home state—have also imposed temporary bans or restrictions on the use of dicamba to curb further damage.

Although dicamba has been around for decades, Monsanto, DuPont Co. and BASF SE sells new formulations of the herbicide that's said to be less drift-prone and volatile than older versions when used correctly.

Monsanto has long defended its product, blaming growers for using older versions of dicamba or not following directions on the new product label.

The controversy will not die anytime soon. On Friday, public interest organizations representing farmers and conservationists made their legal case in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Monsanto, challenging EPA's approval of Monsanto's XtendiMax pesticide.