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Trump's EPA Sides With Monsanto, Extends Dicamba​ 2 More Years

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At David Wildy's soybean fields in Arkansas, soybean plants planted in April 2017 (left) show signs of being impacted by dicamba. Soybean plants planted later in the season (right) stand taller. The Washington Post / Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday that it would allow farmers to continue spraying the controversial pesticide dicamba for the next two years. Dicamba is sold by Monsanto to be used on soybean and cotton plants genetically engineered to be resistant to the weedkiller. The problem is that it drifts on the wind, harming non-resistant crops and wild plants. Over the past two years, it damaged around five million acres of crops, trees and gardens, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said.


The approval does come with new restrictions, but experts and activists say they are not enough.

"The Trump EPA's reckless re-approval of this dangerous poison ignores the facts on the ground and damage across millions of acres," CBD senior scientist Nathan Donley said. "Simply adding more use restrictions to an uncontrollable pesticide that already comes with 39 pages of instructions and limitations reflects a broken process. Pesticide regulation has been hijacked by pesticide makers."

New restrictions, according to CBD and NPR, include:

  1. Only certified applicators will be able to spray the pesticide.
  2. For soybeans, spraying will have to end 45 days after planting.
  3. For cotton, spraying will have to end 60 days after planting.
  4. There must be a 57 foot spraying buffer around fields where endangered species may be present.
  5. Spraying will only be allowed during certain times of day.

Iowa State University weed specialist Bob Hartzler wrote a breakdown of the new regulations and how effective he thought they might be.

"Unfortunately, I don't think these new restrictions will have a significant impact on the problems we've seen the past two years," he concluded.

Dicamba is a controversial issue for farmers, NPR reported. Some swear by it, while others feel pressured to buy only Dicamba-tolerant seeds or risk having their crops damaged by spraying nearby.

The whole set-up is a major coup for Monsanto, as NPR explained:

Dicamba has been a huge success for Monsanto, the company that sells both dicamba-tolerant seeds and a version of the herbicide that's specially formulated for use on them. This past year, dicamba-tolerant seeds were planted on some 40 million acres, representing close to half of all soybeans and cotton in the United States. Bayer, the German company that now owns Monsanto, expects that total to grow to 60 million acres in 2019.

But independent soybean sellers Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed have pushed the EPA for further restrictions, arguing that farmers should have a real choice between seeds, one that isn't born out of fear.

It's not just non-Monsanto crops that are at risk. CBD warned that dicamba could further harm already vulnerable wildlife like monarch butterflies. A CBD report found that more than 60 million acres of monarch habitat will be sprayed with dicamba by next year, threatening both the flowering plants needed by the migrating adult butterflies and the milkweed that is the caterpillars' only food source.

"It's going to take far stronger action to curb dicamba's well-documented dangers to non-target plants and wildlife like monarch butterflies," Donley said.

There is currently a lawsuit challenging the EPA's original approval of dicamba, but it has not been decided yet, NPR reported.

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