What They Aren’t Telling You About the Dicamba Crisis
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
There’s a reason Arkansas and Missouri just issued emergency, temporary dicamba bans. Dicamba pesticide isn’t new – but the biotech feats that are bolstering its indiscriminate use are unsurprisingly causing new problems
If you know agriculture, you know that sometimes – drift happens. If you live near farm fields, you know when it’s time to close your windows and pray your family and pets have strong immune systems. As far as reports of serious crop damage resulting from drifts, this is said to happen only a handful of times each year. Unfortunately, this is not the drift we are talking about.
We are talking about the farming equivalent to delayed-action napalm – or so it sounds from a variety of reports. Monsanto has genetically engineered new soy and cotton crops to withstand dicamba. However, they started offering crops resistant to dicamba before the newly formulated, complementary dicamba was available. Dicamba creates a gas and it’s this gas that can travel for miles and damage nearby crops.
Monsanto and BASF have dicamba-based herbicides, that are only for use on Monsanto’s seeds engineered to resist the pesticide. The EPA finally did approve the allegedly “less-volatile” versions of dicamba but not until November 2016 after considerable damage.
So, farmers began indiscriminately dousing their GE crops with dicamba – but, the gas burns didn’t quiet down with the new formulas and many conventional crops were damage. The problem is growing like chemical wildfire. (Notably, the reason for the “need” for GE crops resistant to dicamba are the pigweed that grew resistant to herbicides in the years following GE crops.)
Even since the Arkansas dicamba ban, reports of crop damage have soared in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and there are social media damage reports from Iowa. The estimated amount of damage is predicted to be about 2 million acres of soy, which doesn’t include other crops like cucumber.
According to Mother Jones, “Farmers claim [dicamba] causes the plants’ leaves to cup together, their budding stems to die back, and their beans to curl into twisted, malformed pods.” It happens around 2-3 weeks of exposure.
— Jeremy Wolf (@jwolf7447) July 8, 2017
Monsanto sells a version of this herbicide that is harmless to the company’s new, genetically engineered soybeans—but not necessarily to the non-GMO versions that are often planted in fields nearby. In Arkansas, which has one of the country’s earliest soybean seasons, state regulators have received 420 complaints from farmers who say their non-resistant crops were damaged when dicamba drifted over from neighboring farms. On [June 23], the Arkansas plant board voted to ban the spraying of dicamba for 120 days on all crops except pastureland…
The bans went through and, of course, Monsanto felt that it was premature.
More from MJ:
…Last year, when Monsanto introduced dicamba-resistant soybeans for the first time, some 200 dicamba spraying complaints were lodged in Missouri, with tempers flaring on both sides of the issue. A dicamba dispute between two farmers in Arkansas led to the shooting death of one and the arrest of the other on murder charges.
And now Missouri has joined in the ban after receiving complaints of this “cupping” crop damage.
Something really strange afoot with the whole scenario?
Firstly, how could such a damaging gaffe be allowed to take place? To use a ridiculous analogy, it is similar to the government allowing citizens to have heat cannons to get rid of squirrels and then letting people go to town with no recognition whatsoever of the inevitable nearby destruction. And also holding back on the “antidote” to heat cannon destruction. Frankly, any farmers using dicamba on GE crops have to realize the recklessness of their actions, but perhaps industrial farmers/developers do not care as long as they are “saved” from pigweed.
In June, Arkansas farmers filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and BASF – “…plaintiffs claim that Monsanto and BASF implemented and controlled the dicamba crop system, releasing seed technology without a corresponding, safe and approved herbicide.” (source) From Hoosier Ag: “The farmers allege that Monsanto and BASF sold the dicamba crop system while knowing it could wipe out crops, fruits, and trees that are not dicamba tolerant. The farmers claim that those who do not plant dicamba tolerant crops are left with no protection from the herbicide.”
Connected to the above – by holding back on the approval/release of the newly formulated dicamba, a pre-emptive buying frenzy is created for an “antidote.” The “antidote” – GE crops – are the only way to be saved from the faulty herbicide created by the same company.
You may think a dicamba ban will finally be a solution in putting a clamp on Monsanto, right? That it hurts them? No. In reality, either decision regarding dicamba hurts one side of the farmers – those with crops afflicted by dicamba gas or those that wish to use dicamba on their GM crops. Either way Monsanto reaps the benefits.
Monsanto especially reaps all of the benefits if this whole thing was just a deliberately fabricated, fear-based marketing scheme to create demand for their GE crops. Essentially, the crisis that they created has made their crops look like an agricultural Noah’s Ark.
In a letter submitted to the Arkansas plant board last week and originally reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arkansas grower Tom Burnham estimated that half the farmers in his area who planted dicamba-resistant crops did so simply to prevent themselves from suffering damage. “I feel the need to plant a technology to protect your crop from off-target movement is tantamount to extortion,” he wrote.
Extortion indeed. Invisible, too, like dicamba gas.
Just listen to the way this Missouri agricultural official announces the dicamba ban. It’s a part of “growing pains” necessary to work with technology.
There’s no hint of scolding a corporation for committing mass chemical arson.
Just a promise to work together in good agricultural stewardship. But would the message be the same if it were crop damage by run-of-the-mill arsonists?