Two of the nation's largest independent seed sellers, Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place limits on the spraying of the drift-prone pesticide dicamba, Reuters reported.
This could potentially hurt Monsanto, which along with DowDupont and BASF SE, makes dicamba formulations to use on Monsanto's Xtend seeds that are genetically engineered to resist applications of the weedkiller. Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, as well as other companies, sell those seeds.
The push from the two companies comes after a University of Missouri report in July that estimated 1.1 million acres of non-resistant soybeans have been accidentally damaged by dicamba this year so far. Off-target damage has also been reported on other agricultural crops, trees and plants. In 2017, the highly volatile chemical damaged a reported 3.6 million acres of crops, according to the University of Missouri.
Crop injuries have surfaced despite efforts from the EPA and many states that have introduced restrictions to prevent off-target dicamba damage.
"I've been doing this for 50 years and we've never had anything be as damaging as this dicamba situation," Stine Seed founder and CEO Harry Stine told Reuters. "In this case, Monsanto made an error."
Monsanto, which was purchased for $63 billion by German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has been sharply criticized for selling its dicamba-tolerant Xtend seeds before securing EPA approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Monsanto developed the Xtend system to address superweeds that have grown resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup.
In a June 27 letter to the EPA, Beck's urged the EPA to modify the current dicamba label on Xtend crops to only allow usage as a pre-plant option and disallow in-season applications.
Monsanto and BASF told Reuters that farmers need dicamba to beat back weeds. DowDuPont did not offer a comment in the report. The companies have said their products can be safely used with proper training and if farmers adhere to label instructions.
But in a Beck's poll of 690 farmers, only 22.6 percent said the label should be kept the way it currently reads, according to a Aug. 10 statement from Beck's CEO Sonny Beck and President Scott Beck.
"There is still a significant amount of dicamba complaints in 2018 as there was in 2017. It appears that although people may follow the label, the product continues to move off-target," they said.
In a blog post this week, Bob Hartzler, an Iowa State University (ISU) professor of agronomy and an extension weed specialist, said off-target dicamba injury has continued despite new label restrictions and mandatory training for applicators.
"The majority of growers using the Xtend system are happy with the increased performance in weed control obtained with dicamba compared to alternatives," he wrote. "However, one ISU Extension and Outreach agronomist stated that farmers planting non-dicamba resistant soybean 'are really upset with the continued off-target movement of dicamba.'"
He noted that while less than 5 percent of Iowa's nearly 10 million soybean acres have been injured by dicamba, "if you are a farmer whose crop has been damaged by dicamba, the fact that the majority of soybean in the state were not affected is of little consolation."
Hartzler said that efforts to limit crop injuries have been unsuccessful. "It is my opinion that the new label restrictions placed following the 2017 growing season, and the training required for applicators of the new dicamba products, has failed to reduce off-target problems to an acceptable level."
Dicamba's federal approval is subject to expiration this fall, during which the EPA will decide whether to renew the registration or let it expire.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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