The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it hopes to issue a final decision on Monsanto’s new dicamba-mixed weed-killing products by the end of this year, Politico reports.
Dicamba became a serious issue for farmers after Monsanto released new lines of soybean and cotton seeds engineered to withstand the infrequently used herbicide ingredient. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the seeds’ commercial sale more than a year ago, but the EPA is still evaluating Monsanto’s herbicide products engineered to be used in tandem with the varieties. The lag time between seed and herbicide approval has led some farmers who bought the Monsanto soybean and cotton seeds to illegally spray older versions of dicamba on their crops.
That, in turn, has devastated neighboring crops that aren’t resistant to the weed killer.
The EPA and state agencies have received hundreds of complaints from farmers who say their crops have been devastated from pesticide drift, which happens when wind blows pesticides off-target.
States that have reported problems include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The Missouri Department of Agriculture alone has received more than 100 complaints related to dicamba misuse, records show. Missouri growers estimate that, so far, more than 42,000 acres of crops have been destroyed or diminished.
“Monsanto does not condone the illegal use of any pesticide for any purpose,” said Miriam Paris, Monsanto’s U.S. Soybean Marketing Manager, in a statement.
The EPA update on dicamba came during a Thursday public meeting held by the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture in Washington D.C. The U.S. Department of Agriculture first established the advisory committee — also known as AC21 — in 2003 to inform federal officials on biotechnology’s long-term consequences to the U.S. food system. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reorganized the committee in 2015 to help strengthen coexistence between commercial, organic and other types of farming practices.
The advisory committee is made up of nearly two dozen different agricultural stakeholders. Members include farmers, researchers and agribusiness officials. The Organic Trade Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association and DuPont Pioneer are among the represented stakeholders.
“We truly need diversity in agriculture,” Vilsack said shortly after reorganizing AC21. “We need diversity in production methods, crops produced and in the farming community itself.”
AC21 also met on Friday.
The EPA has received more than 21,000 public comments since it started reviewing the new dicamba formulations as part of its role in the coordinated framework for biotechnology, which is jointly administered by the EPA, the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration.
Among the comments:
“As a soybean grower I support the new use technology for dicamba tolerant soybeans. We currently have several weeds that are difficult to control with the crop protectants available on the market today. This product will be very effective in controlling these weeds.” – Jerry Jeschke, submitted 5/10/2016
“Our members are deeply concerned about the serious social, economic, environmental and health harms to farmers, workers and rural communities that would accompany EPA registration of dicamba for use on genetically engineered dicamba-resistant crops. We therefore urge EPA to reject Monsanto’s petition for use of dicamba on these crops.” – Pesticide Action Network North America, submitted 6/15/2016
“I personally do not like Dicamba. I know it does a good job on weed control, but it can do serious damage to one’s corn crop.” – Gail Fisher, submitted 6/10/2016
Farmers who illegally misuse pesticides could face criminal penalties, according to POLITICO.
The recent problems with pesticide drift have also started calling into question whether Monsanto’s pending products can be contained after being sprayed, POLITICO also reported.