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Daily News Blog

25
Jan

Arkansas Officially Bans Use of Monsanto’s Dicamba Herbicide Linked to Crop Damage

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2018) Monsanto’s herbicide dicamba, widely used on genetically engineered crops, will be prohibited from use in agriculture from April 16 to October 31, 2018 in Arkansas, following a vote this week by the state’s Legislative Council. Action by lawmakers was the last step needed to make the ban official after the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) voted last year to continue a temporary ban on the drift and damage-prone herbicide into 2018. The ban is a win for farmers and health advocates who have suffered from drift, health effects, and crop damage as a result of widespread dicamba use, as over 29,000 people, including many Beyond Pesticides supporters, voiced their support for ASPB’s proposal when it was announced in October.

Prior to the vote by the Arkansas Legislative Council lawmakers had delayed a vote on the ban, sending the proposal back to ASPB for review and potential revision. Under state law, the Legislative Council, which acts as a decision making body when the state legislature is not in session, must either approve or disapprove of regulations promulgated by ASPB; lawmakers cannot amend ASPB’s rules. Despite concerns from lawmakers friendly to the chemical industry, ASPB refused to revise its proposal, and sent it back again to the Legislative Council for an up or down vote. “The Plant Board give us some very good scientific information that they had studied and worked on for a long period of time, and I think the members realized that,” said State Senator Bill Sample (R), co-chairman of the Legislative Council to the Baxter Bulletin. Senator Sample had first backed efforts to revise the plan before voting in favor of its passage earlier this week.

As the state begins to enforce its ban, a lawsuit filed by Monsanto attempts to halt the ban remains in the courts. “We’ve committed to growers and our customers that we will pursue (the lawsuit) until it is complete to see if we can’t help them have access to modern technology and have the maximum amount of choice,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy to the Associated Press. Unfortunately for farmers, it is evident that Monsanto’s drive to provide greater access to its products is what resulted in the current crisis in the first place.

Weed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready genetically engineered (GE) crops, developed to tolerate repeated sprayings of Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate throughout the growing season, led the company to reach for older, more toxic chemicals to incorporate into their new line of GE cropping systems. Glyphosate-tolerant corn and soy led to a rash of invasive weeds developing the same tolerance in farmer’s fields, leading to increases in labor and cost. Rather than encourage a greater emphasis on cover cropping, crop rotation, and alternative weed management techniques developed successfully by the organic industry, the company developed its new line of products based on an herbicide that was first registered in 1967 – dicamba.

The company released new seeds developed to tolerate dicamba, however it did so without a companion herbicide it was also developing, which was purported to present less issues with herbicide drift. Many believed the source of widespread reports of drift and damaged fields stemmed from farmers using older, off-label versions of dicamba on new GE seeds. The company eventually released its companion herbicide “Xtend,” a combination of glyphosate and dicamba, but reports of crop damage from drift continued. From Texan winegrowers, to Missouri peach farmers, the dicamba crisis has pitted neighbor against neighbor. In late 2016, NPR reported that a fight over dicamba damage led to the murder of one farmer in Arkansas.Despite Monsanto’s claim that its new Xtend herbicide wouldn’t include the drift problems dicamba is well known for, research by weed scientists found that the product does volatize enough to cause drift damage.

Now, Monsanto has two strategies in motion. First, sue to attempt to delay or eliminate any state-level action. Second, offer to pay farmers more than half the cost of the herbicide per acre in order to get them to continue using its toxic cropping system. With predictions that over 40 million acres will be planted with dicamba-tolerant soy in 2018, action by other states to restrict the use of dicamba is needed now. Restrictions are in place or being considered in a number of states, including Missouri, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

If you are concerned about the use of dicamba-based herbicides in agricultural areas where you live, contact your state department of agriculture and voice your concerns. Find their contact information through Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. For more information about the hazardous associated with GE agriculture, see our program page on genetic engineering.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Baxter Bulletin, Memphis Daily News

 

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  • Archives

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