High Noon In Arkansas as They Stand Up Against Monsanto
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
If we don’t get a handle on it, our natural environment will not be the same. – Beekeeper, Richard Coy
Dicamba is an old herbicide, but it’s only recently that it’s been used on crops like soy and cotton thanks to biotech companies developing new genetically engineered crops able to withstand it. This year is the first that it has been legal to use dicamba during the summer, and this is the problem…
The pesticide drift travels far and is shriveling up non-GMO crops like soy, cotton, cucumbers, melons and wild vegetation. Sadly, the drift is destroying weeds and vines and that subsequently cuts supplies for bees to make honey. One Arkansas farmer saw his honey production drop to only 30-50 percent with the introduction of dicamba approval this year.
While ten states are currently affected by crop damage from drift (and 17 states are investigating), Arkansas has over 1,000 cases of crop damage. Millions of American acres are suspected to be damage by the vaporization of dicamba.
The Arkansas State Plant Board now has taken the lead in cracking down on the problem. [Last] Thursday, it voted unanimously to ban the use of dicamba on the state’s crops from mid-April until November. This amounts to a ban on the use of dicamba in combination with Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops. It’s not a final decision: The governor and a group of legislative leaders have to sign off on the Plant Board’s regulatory decisions, but they usually do so. That won’t happen, however, until after a public hearing set for Nov. 8.
The board also approved a steep increase in fines — up to $25,000 — for farmers who use dicamba and similar herbicides illegally.
Monsanto insists that its version of dicamba, which the company has mixed with an additive that’s supposed to make it less volatile, does not drift from the fields where it is sprayed if farmers use it correctly. The company sent a delegation of five people, including Ty Vaughn, a top executive, to this week’s meeting of the Plant Board. They passed out binders and thumb drives filled with data from the company’s own tests — tests that convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve the chemical on crops.
Monsanto has been fond of passing the buck of accountability to farmers and blaming them for misuse or not getting the “learning curve.” The problem is – how many times can a company do this before people realize that it’s the product? Despite Monsanto’s tired old lines, field tests conducted by University of Arkansas this summer showed that even new formulations of dicamba (also made by BASF) do indeed vaporize and travel to other land.
Monsanto has a lot riding on their product working – they already sold enough dicamba-tolerant soybeans to cover 20 million acres this year. They expect that number to rise and the monolithic company has raised eyebrows that this whole thing – scandal included – was a ruse to get farmers to flock to the new dicamba-resistant GM crops in order to be “saved.” It is still anyone’s guess if Monsanto expected this much backlash – enough for states to outright ban an entire pesticide…
Still, Monsanto is defiant about the board’s vote and there’s talk of the corporation suing the state, showing what lengths they will go to once they grapple their roots into paying farmers.
Image: University of Arkansas