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Daily News Blog

23
Feb

Monsanto Loses Lawsuit to Stop Dicamba Ban in Arkansas

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2018) Agrichemical corporation Monsanto has lost its bid to halt a statewide ban on the use of its specialty dicamba herbicide in Arkansas. Despite a lengthy process of evaluation and public comment that led to a prohibition on the use of drift-prone dicamba herbicides during the growing season on Arkansas farms, Monsanto made one last-ditch attempt to stop the law from going into effect by suing the entire state. With the industry’s loss, Arkansas is on track to implement the toughest restrictions against dicamba in the U.S.

State Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza dismissed the lawsuit last week based on a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, which held that the state cannot be made a defendant in court. Monsanto’s lawsuit argued against the makeup of the state’s Plant Board, which voted to prohibit the company’s product last November. Monsanto also made claims that the state did not consider the economic damage a ban on the herbicide would cause, despite not seeking monetary restitution in court. Beyond Pesticides led a nationwide campaign to urge action by the Arkansas Plant Board to ban dicamba.

Dicamba is an herbicide originally registered for use in 1967 to control broadleaf weeds. The chemical is notoriously drift-prone, but Monsanto (with its XTEND herbicide) as well as the companies BASF (Engenia herbicide) and DowDupont (FeXapan herbicide), attempted to produce formulations that did not volatilize as much as older formulations. Their move was hastened by the increasing failure of another herbicide, glyphosate, to control herbicide-tolerant weeds in fields of genetically engineered crops.

The development of glyphosate-tolerant row crops (corn, cotton, soybeans) enabled the chemical industry to vertically integrate their seed and pesticide divisions, requiring farmers contracting with these companies to plant the company’s seed as well as spray its specific herbicide products on their crops to manage weeds. However, repeated and extensive use of the same herbicide, glyphosate, predictably resulted in weeds in these fields developing their own tolerance to the herbicide. Genes able to confer resistance to the older herbicide dicamba were discovered just as glyphosate was becoming less effective. Companies like Monsanto needed to solve the issue of drift to make sure that surrounding farms not using dicamba-tolerant crops were not affected, but as state action by not only Arkansas, but also Missouri, North Dakota, and Minnesota, show, the new product formulations have not been not successful.

Monsanto rushed its XTEND cropping system to market. The company allowed seeds of dicamba-tolerant soybeans to be put on the market without U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval of its companion herbicide. Shortly after, reports started to roll in indicating that the many farmers were, unsurprisingly, using older dicamba formulations on their crops, leading to widespread damage of neighboring farms. However, even when the XTEND herbicide was eventually put on the market, damage reports did not slow, and research by weed scientists found that the product does volatize enough to cause drift damage.

Bader Farms, which grows over 110,00 peach trees on over 1,000 acres in Missouri, sued Monsanto after its insurance company issued a refusal to pay for damages caused by off-label dicamba drift from surrounding farms. In June of this year, University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station had over 100 acres of soybeans ruined from nearby dicamba use. And most shockingly, NPR reports that last October a dispute over dicamba drift led to the murder of one Arkansas farmer.

Monsanto’s current push to pay farmers to use the XTEND cropping system by covering half of the cost of the herbicide per acre is yet another irresponsible move by a company constantly under fire for its indecent business practices. With Arkansas’ dicamba ban held up by state courts, advocates say that other states must move quickly to follow suit.

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 hazards 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: Associated Press

 

 

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