Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Complaints surge about dicamba damage to oak trees, older soybean and cotton strains

Oak trees with cupped leaves, a sign
of dicamba damage.
(MCIR photo by Darrell Hoemann)
Thousands of complaints allege the controversial herbicide dicamba is responsible for widespread damage to oak trees and older strains of corn and soybeans. "Monsanto and BASF, two of agriculture’s largest seed and pesticide providers, released versions of the dicamba this growing season. The new versions came several months after Monsanto released its latest cotton and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba in 2016," Johnathan Hettinger reports for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. "Since then, farmers across the Midwest and South have blamed drift from dicamba for ruining millions of acres of soybeans and cotton produced by older versions of seeds."

Complaints about damaged oak trees have come from Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee. Retired University of Illinois biologist Lou Nelms says he's documented damage to oaks and has filed complaints with the state Department of Agriculture. He told Hettinger that he's seen signs of pre-planting damage to plants from dicamba for 40 years.

Monsanto and BASF have said that crop damage is caused by improper use of dicamba, but don't deny that it caused the damage. "But, in the cases of oak tree damage, internal Monsanto emails indicate that the company has tried to shift blame away from dicamba to other pesticides," Hettinger reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency considered a ban on dicamba, but is now leaning toward allowing its use, but with more restrictions aimed at making it safer. Some states have restricted its use.

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