It’s somewhat involved, but a new piece from NPR about chemical giant Monsanto‘s roll-out of a herbicide-resistant soybean — and the damage drifting sprays are doing to the crops of East Arkansas soybean farmers who haven’t made the switch to Monsanto’s frankenseeds — is worth a read. Check it out here.
Monsanto released the new seeds, called Xtend, earlier this year. They have been genetically modified to resist the effects of a potent herbicide called dicamba, which is lethal to normal soybeans. Farmers who aren’t yet using Xtend seeds are reporting widespread crop damage to their fields, with area extension agents suggesting it’s caused by small amounts of wind-driven dicamba blown over from farms that are illegally using the chemical in conjunction with dicamba-resistant soybeans to fight pigweed.
Though Monstano is seeking approval of a new version of dicamba that doesn’t ride the wind quite so easily, researchers at the University of Arkansas tell NPR that the damage to non-Xtend soybean crops may continue even after the less-vaporous version comes to market. That ongoing threat could force more farmers in the region to buy Xtend seeds next year.
From the article:
More than 100 farmers in Missouri have filed formal complaints with the state’s Department of Agriculture. In Arkansas, 25 complaints have been filed. If investigators decide that a farmer has sprayed dicamba illegally, the farmer can be fined. In Arkansas, the maximum fine for a violation is $1,000, but “our fines aren’t stopping them,” says Susie Nichols, who is in charge of pesticide regulation for Arkansas. State regulators are considering raising that to $5,000 or even more.
Nichols says the Arkansas Plant Board also is considering new regulations that could drastically restrict the use of dicamba, even if the EPA does approve the use of Monsanto’s new and reformulated version.
Weed scientists from the University of Arkansas believe that the new version of dicamba also could damage nearby soybean fields. So if any farmers are permitted to use it on soybeans, other farmers may be forced to buy Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant soybean varieties just to protect themselves.