EPA Allows Farmers to Keep Spraying Monsanto’s Dicamba

EPA is adding some light regulations on dicamba use, but the controversy and problems surrounding dicamba-tolerant crops seem far from over.

Dicamba is not a new herbicide. Monsanto, BASF and DuPont all sell dicamba formulations and have for decades. What is new is the way farmers are spraying it and how much they’re spraying.

Monsanto introduced dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton back in 2012, and the USDA approved them in January of 2015, despite concerns about the damage pesticide drift could do to neighboring crops. At the time of that approval, Food & Water Watch called dicamba an “incredibly drift-prone herbicide” and expressed concern that, “Farmers of nearby non-tolerant crops will pay the price for USDA’s short-term weed management fix”.

Before USDA approved dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton, farmers used dicamba to treat soil for weeds before planting. Farmers can spray these new crops as they grow, which increases the drift issue.

Drift became so devastating to other farms and gardens that EPA re-evaluated dicamba’s use. In a decision that’s great for biotech companies and not-so-great for many farmers and gardeners in the South mid-West U.S., EPA decided that farmers could continue spraying Monsanto’s herbicide on their soybeans and corn, with a few new rules:

  • Labeling dicamba as “restricted use” and requiring special training for spraying.
  • Requiring that farmers record when and how they’re spraying.
  • Restricting spray when wind speeds are more than 10mph.
  • Shortening the time-of-day window for spraying.
  • Adding tank clean-out rules.
  • Keeping better records of sensitive crops nearby that may be endangered by dicamba drift.

The restrictions and training may look good on paper, but given what’s been happening in Arkansas, it seems dubious that all farmers are going to adhere to these guidelines. Let’s take a look at how dicamba-resistant crops are working in practice.

In Arkansas, the damage to crops in neighboring farms and gardens became such a problem that the state enacted a temporary ban on dicamba back in July. The Arkansas State Plant Board is pushing for a stronger ban, which the state will decide on in early November.

Even with the ban in place, some farmers there still sprayed dicamba illegally, which is causing high tensions between farmers who are and aren’t planting these GMO soybeans and cotton plants. In Oct 2016, farmer Mike Wallace was allegedly murdered by his neighbor, because Wallace sprayed an old, banned version of dicamba on his own soybeans. The pesticide destroyed Allan Curtis’s crops, and during an argument about it, Curtis fired a gun at Wallace.

Monsanto claims that its latest dicamba formulation minimizes drift, but independent researchers say that the new formulation and EPA rules aren’t going to help with drift that occurs as the product evaporates. Weed scientist Bob Scott discovered that even when you place a tray of already-sprayed soil in a field, the dicamba will evaporate and damage nearby plants.

Soybeans damaged by dicamba herbicide.

Soybeans damaged by dicamba herbicide.

Monsanto VP Scott Partridge told NPR he expects farmers to plant twice as many acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans next summer as a result of the EPA decision. That would add up to around 40 million acres.

How many of those new customers are going to be buying those seeds against their will? Some farmers are planning to buy Monsanto’s seeds to protect themselves from drift.

Arkansas farmer Brent Henderson said, “If it’s going to be legal to use and neighbors are planting it, I’m going to have to plant [dicamba-tolerant soybeans] to protect myself. It’s very annoying. It’s a property rights issue. My neighbor should not dictate what I do on my farm.”

EPA approved dicamba-resistant pesticides around the time that it approved 2,4-D resistant soybeans and corn plants. Both of these approvals were meant to address a problem that anti-GMO advocates have been warning about for years: Roundup-resistant weeds. Now, farmers are spraying these stronger pesticides to deal with that issue. How long before we are dealing with 2,4-D- and dicamba-resistant weeds?

Related at Care2

EPA is adding some light regulations on dicamba use, but the controversy and problems surrounding dicamba-tolerant crops seem far from over.

87 comments

Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago

ty

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Lesa D
Past Member about a year ago

thank you, Becky...

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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