The world's largest seed and ag-chemical company, Monsanto, says it is considering its options after a court dismissed its lawsuit challenging the Arkansas ban of its weedkiller dicamba on row crops during the growing season, said the Associated Press. "Arkansas has the toughest restriction in place on dicamba, though several states have imposed other restrictions or requirements."
The bicameral Arkansas Legislative Council approved a ban on spraying the weedkiller dicamba on cotton and soybeans from April 16-Oct. 31 in hopes of preventing damage to neighboring crops. By essentially banning the herbicide for the growing season, Arkansas is at the forefront of several states that set stricter rules on the chemical than mandated by the EPA, which itself tightened its rules on when and how the weedkiller can be used.
A legislative subcommittee supported the Arkansas State Plant Board’s plan to ban use of the weedkiller dicamba from April 16 to Oct. 31 this year. The bicameral Legislative Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposal on Friday, said the Associated Press.
A Monsanto executive "acknowledged the company misjudged the timeline" for EPA approval of its lower-volatility formulation of the weedkiller dicamba in 2016, reports Reuters. The result was that some farmers, worried about invasive weeds, planted Monsanto's new dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds and used older versions of dicamba, blamed for damage to neighboring fields.
Following an explosion of complaints about crop damage by the weedkiller dicamba, the EPA strengthened its rules for spraying the herbicide onto genetically modified cotton and soybeans. The new guidelines require special training of applicators before they can spray dicamba, limit the time of day when it can be used and bar spraying when winds exceed 10 miles an hour, a reduction from the 15 mph limit this year.
In an effort to quell complaints about the weedkiller dicamba, Monsanto invited dozens of weed scientists to a summit in St. Louis, “but many have declined, threatening the company’s efforts to convince regulators the product is safe to use,” said Reuters. The EPA is considering additional rules governing how and when the herbicide can be sprayed onto strains of cotton and soybeans genetically modified to tolerate the chemical.
A University of Missouri weed specialist says the weedkiller dicamba has damaged more than 2.5 million acres of cropland this year, mostly in the Midwest and South, reports Harvest Public Media. The researcher, Kevin Bradley, says, “I don’t know that we’ve ever in our agricultural history seen one active ingredient do so much damage across one nation like that.”
A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in St. Louis accuses sales representatives of Monsanto, the world's largest seed and ag-chemical company, "of secretly giving farmers assurances that using unauthorized or 'off-label' spray varieties would be all right," reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That’s one of many allegations in the suit to place blame from soaring complaints of dicamba damage on companies that produce the weedkiller and accompanying seed varieties."
Missouri has tightened its rules for dicamba, permitting use of the herbicide only during the day and if winds are mild, as agriculture officials in the mid-South try to contain crop damage from the weedkiller sprayed on cotton and soybeans. Widespread reports of damage have left some growers feeling forced into buying dicamba-tolerant GE seed.