On July 13, 2017, the state of Tennessee joined Arkansas and Missouri in imposing restrictions on the use of Monsanto’s weed killer dicamba.
Tennessee’s action came in response to reports of damage to crops not genetically modified to be resistant to dicamba. When dicamba is sprayed, it can drift to other fields and damage soybeans, cotton and other vulnerable crops, Insurance Journal reports.
Under Tennessee’s new restrictions, older dicamba formulations are banned, and dicamba application is permitted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. only.
Arkansas has banned dicamba, as has Missouri, and Kansas is investigating complaints about dicamba damage.
Farmers are fighting with one another over dicamba spraying and crop damage. Some have brought lawsuits against dicamba producers including Monsanto, BASF SE and DuPont. Dicamba is sold under such trade names as Banvel, Diablo, Oracle, and Vanquish.
Hunter Raffety, a farmer in Wyatt, Missouri, says, “We’ve had damage across just about every acre of soybeans we farm in southeast Missouri.” People have lost ornamental plants and some have lost their vegetable gardens. Raffety says three to four thousand acres of soybeans on his family’s 6,000 acres have been damaged. The leaves of affected plants roll into into cup-like shapes, and cannot support plant growth.
National law firm Parker Waichman has advised many individuals over issues involving exposure to herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals.
Dicamba is used to control broadleaf weeds in grain crops and grasslands. The weed killer can be applied to leaves or to the soil. ‘Dicamba’ is an ingredient in numerous products for agricultural and home landscape use.
According to Modern Farmer, a major disadvantage of dicamba compared to glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) is that it much more easily becomes airborne and drifts away from where it is applied. Until recently, dicamba has been used primarily as a pre-emergent herbicide—applied to the soil to kill weed seeds prior to planting a crop. ‘Dicamba’ could not be applied directly to crop plants until Monsanto developed dicamba-resistant soybeans. Farmers wanted a weed killer to use on the glyphosate-resistant pigweed. But farmers learned that dicamba drifts on the wind, damaging soybeans varieties that are not resistant to the ‘Dicamba’.
Monsanto Introduces ‘Dicamba’ tolerant Crops
About 80 percent of the 120 million acres of genetically modified crops grown worldwide are Roundup tolerant varieties. But because of the constant Roundup spraying, however, many weed species have evolved a resistance to the widely used weed killer. According to Modern Farmer, in the U.S., the number of acres of farmland harboring glyphosate-resistant weeds nearly doubled between 2010 and 2012, from 32.6 million acres to 61.2 million acres.
Monsanto said it has worked to make dicamba stickier and limit drift when it is sprayed. The company is pressing to have the bans overturned, Insurance Journal reports. Monsanto faced similar problems at the launch of crops resistant to the weed killer Roundup (glyphosate) twenty years ago.
Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, said many of the reported ‘Dicamba’ issues could be attributed to farmers not following application instructions, using contaminated spraying equipment, or using older ‘Dicamba’ formulations, which are cheaper but more prone to drift.
Monsanto faces regulatory problems in a number of states. Last month California added glyphosate—Roundup—to the state’s list of probable carcinogens. This move came after a court fight, and the two sides still sharply disagree about Roundup’s dangers. California’s designation was based on a determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
In addition to cancer, research has linked Roundup to serious health issues including, Parkinson’s disease, respiratory distress, pulmonary edema, abnormal heart rhythms, kidney failure, blurred vision, and loss of coordination.
Roundup has been in use since the 1970s and is the world’s most widely used weed killer. Glyphosate products are used not only in commercial agriculture, but also in home gardens, in public parks and gardens, in commercial landscaping, and as a roadside weed killer. But some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate and farmers have been seeking effective alternatives.
‘Dicamba’ is a key element in Monsanto’s launch of the Xtend line of genetically modified soybeans and cotton. These crops are designed to tolerate ‘Dicamba’, a replacement for glyphosate weed killer products. Seeds such as corn, soybeans and cotton were genetically modified to survive Roundup applications to kill the weeds that reduce crop yields.
But during the decades of increasing Roundup use, some weeds developed resistance to glyphosate. Dicamba has long been used as a pre-emergent herbicide—to kill weed seeds before crops are planted. Dicamba use expanded after U.S. regulators approved it for spraying on crops that are already growing.
Monsanto’s new ‘Dicamba’ formulation is sold under the name Xtendimax. According to Monsanto, Xtendimax drifts less than older versions of dicamba. BASF and DuPont also sell dicamba formulas that are said to be less drift prone.
In Monsanto’s home state of Missouri, state Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst commended the quick action to update guidelines on ‘Dicamba’ use, which are similar to those in Tennessee. “The Special Local Need label is designed to provide additional protection for neighboring landowners and still allow the application of Dicamba to control weed problems,” he said in a statement.
According to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Extension Toxicology Network, dicamba is moderately toxic when ingested and slightly toxic through inhalation or dermal exposure. Symptoms of ‘Dicamba’ poisoning include loss of appetite, vomiting, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate, shortness of breath, and central nervous system effects (victim may become excited or depressed). The victim may experience repeated muscle spasms. Inhalation can cause irritation of the linings of the nasal passages and the lungs, and loss of voice. Dicamba can cause severe and permanent damage to the eyes.
Legal Help for Those Harmed by Dicamba Exposure
If you or someone you know has developed health problems because of dicamba exposure or you are a farmer who has experienced economic losses because of ‘Dicamba’ drift onto your crops, the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can offer a free, no- obligation of your legal rights. To reach the firm, fill out the online contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).