Dicamba harms or kills green leafy plants that are not genetically modified to withstand it. Farmers who plant dicamba-resistant soy or corn spray dicamba to kill weeds. But when that poison drifts onto neighboring properties, it kills or harms non GMO plants or even GMO plants which are not engineered to be dicamba resistant.
Dicamba Controversy Grows
Monsanto’s rollout of its latest version of Dicamba is the largest in the company’s history, so the chemical giant from Missouri is fighting hard to defend its popular product. Meanwhile, more and more farmers are joining the fight to ban or limit its use. Nationally, according to a University of Missouri report, 2,242 farmers say dicamba has damaged an estimated 3.1 million acres.
Iowa agriculture leaders are investigating a record 258 crop damage reports from pesticides this year. About 100 complaints on 150,000 acres are tied to dicamba.
Monsanto and other chemical giants like DuPont and BASF have developed seeds that are genetically modified (GMOs). The GMO seeds can then be sprayed with a weed-killing pesticide (or herbicide) that takes out weeds but leaves the crop unharmed.
Dicamba critics say the new dicamba products don’t stay where they’re sprayed. They move onto neighboring fields, where they can damage non-resistant crops, fruits, vegetables, trees, flowers.
Volatility vs. Applicator Error
Monsanto claims dicamba problems come mostly from farm application errors.
“We did 1,200-some odd tests in connection with registration of our product with EPA,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy. “They confirmed to us what the label says — if it’s followed … there will be no off-target movement of dicamba by wind or volatization.”
This defense is similar to the one Monsanto is using in Roundup cancer lawsuits. Monsanto claims it tested Roundup hundreds or even thousands of times, while critics say those tests were all done with Monsanto money, or at the behest of Monsanto; so the results cannot be trusted.
More than a few university weed scientists disagree with Monsanto’s user error defense of dicamba.
“The big debate is whether or not [dicamba] is volatilizing,” or turning from liquid to vapor, enabling it to easily move, potentially over a few days, said Robert Hartzler, an Iowa State University weed scientist. “New formulations were supposed to have taken care of the volatility problem,” he said, “but all the research suggests that they’ve reduced the volatility, but not to a level that’s safe” after plants have emerged from the ground.
Toxipedia.com lists volatility as a dicamba problem. It also cautions that dicamba can be highly mobile in soil and can easily contaminate water. One must take care not to harm desirable plants and be very cautious near water sources.
The U.S. EPA (Monsanto’s regulatory friend) is speaking with academic researchers, state farm regulators, Monsanto and other pesticide makers to determine whether new restrictions should be placed on dicamba’s use.
An EPA official told the Des Moines Register, “The underlying causes of the various damage incidents are not yet clear, as ongoing investigations have yet to be concluded.”
Monsanto said that it is cooperating with the EPA’s review and expects a decision soon.
Monsanto Challenges Arkansas’s Dicamba Regulation
In October 2017, Monsanto challenged an Arkansas task force recommendation to ban the use of dicamba-related products after April 15 next year. In July, Arkansas issued a four-month prohibition on dicamba use. Arkansas farmers have logged 963 dicamba-related complaints in 2017.
Bob Hartzler, weed specialist, Iowa State University
Bob Hartzler said he and other weed scientists support EPA restrictions on dicamba product-use after plants have emerged from the ground, a time that can vary depending on the state.
“If it is volatilizing, it’s nearly impossible to use, in my opinion, post-emergence,” he said.
Monsanto Profits Threatened
Mr. Hartzler said Monsanto and BASF are fighting restrictions because they would “greatly reduce the value” of their chemical and seed systems, which required “a huge investment” to develop over several years.
“The seed is where they make the majority of their money,” Hartzler said. “So if the chemical is restricted and it no longer controls waterhemp or Palmer amaranth, farmers would not see the need to pay additional money” for that technology.
Glyphosate Overuse triggers Dicamba Overuse
The vicious pesticide cycle dicamba continues began with overuse of glyphosate. Used in Roundup and other pesticides/herbicides, glyphosate has been overused so much that it has spawned superweeds, weeds which have evolved to withstand it. Monsanto’s answer has been to switch to a different chemical, dicamba.
Iowa and U.S. farmers want some answer to battle weeds that can no longer be killed with glyphosate.
The Des Moines Register reports that several Southern states are struggling with glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, a rapidly growing, fast-adapting “super weed” that can quickly overrun cotton and soybean fields.
Palmer amaranth is creeping across Iowa, moving into about half of its counties. So far, the weed can be killed with glyphosate, but weed scientists say it’s only a matter of time until it adapts to the the widely used chemical.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture has asked farmers in the state to check fields this harvest for Palmer amaranth, which can grow more than seven feet tall.
And so it goes. Many farmers fearing Palmer amaranth will turn to dicamba, and continue the awful chemical cycle of poisoning themselves and the land to produce substandard food. GMO food and GMO food-growing methods have been found to be not only bad for the environment, but they also produce less nutritious food than conventional or organic farming.