Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monsanto blocked testing on its new dicamba herbicide that drifts easily and damage scrops

Monsanto prevented independent research on its new dicamba herbicide that is now being blamed for damaging millions of acres of crops, by drifting into fields unable to withstand it, reports Emily Flitter of Reuters.

"Typically, when a company develops a new agricultural product, it commissions its own tests and shares the results and data with regulators," Flitter writes. "It also provides product samples to universities for additional scrutiny. Regulators and university researchers then work together to determine the safety of the product. In this case, Monsanto denied requests by university researchers to study its XtendiMax with VaporGrip for volatility, a measure of its tendency to vaporize and drift across fields."

Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy, Scott Partridge, said it considered the testing unnecessary, and believed the product was less volatile than a previous dicamba formula that researchers found could be used safely. "To get meaningful data takes a long, long time, Partridge said. "This product needed to get into the hands of the growers."

There’s no evidence that independent testing would have prevented the crisis, but it would have given regulators more information about the formula’s properties and whether farmers should use it, Flitter writes. It is used in combination with Monsanto soybean seeds that are resistant to it.

In 2016, Monsanto agronomist Boyd Carey told the Arkansas Plant Board’s Pesticide Committee that universities were not allowed to test the new formula "for fear that the results may jeopardize the federal label," according to an official meeting summary.

The Environmental Protection Agency did not answer questions from Reuters about testing on the new formula, but an EPA spokeswoman said the agency did place "time limits on the registration to allow the agency to either let it expire or to easily make the necessary changes in the registration if there are problems."

With approval at the federal level, Monsanto faced less scrutiny from some states. Arkansas was the exception and blocked approval when the company declined to allow more testing. It was also the first state to ban sale and use of the new formula. Damage that farmers attribute to it is being studied by task forces in some states.

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