Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

GMO
EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?
PBouman / Shutterstock

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.


Following reports that dicamba has drifted into forestland and is harming trees, too, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action. According to a statement from the EPA, manufacturers selling dicamba pesticide—that's Monsanto and German agrochemical firm BASF, right now—will have to take new steps to attempt to avoid drift. Dicamba will now be listed as a "restricted-use pesticide." Here's what that means, in the EPA's words:

RUPs are not available for purchase or use by the general public. RUPs have the potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects to the environment and injury to applicators or bystanders without added restrictions. The "Restricted Use" classification restricts a product, or its uses, to use by a certified applicator or someone under the certified applicator's direct supervision.

In the case of dicamba, the new label will limit the times when dicamba can be applied (for example, when it's windy), and will restrict application to only those who have undergone special training.

Placement on the RUP list isn't a ban. It's incredibly far from a ban; the second-most popular pesticide in the U.S., atrazine, is on that list. In a statement to Reuters, a Monsanto vice president noted that the restrictions are not only voluntary but were proposed by Monsanto.

The restrictions are in line with what Monsanto's party-line defense of dicamba: the pesticide itself is not dangerous when applied correctly. Farmers, for their part, say following the 4,500-word directions is insanely difficult, and lawsuits have alleged that Monsanto encouraged farmers to use older, even more dangerous dicamba products before the newer versions were released.

Even with these new rules, there's also the possibility that dicamba is just…incredibly dangerous. Some authorities have noted that the restrictions do not address the fact that it vaporizes in the first place; that that is its inherent danger. Denise O'Brien, chair of the Pesticide Action Network board, a coalition of groups fighting adverse effects from pesticides, told us this:

These new restrictions don't do nearly enough to address the problem of dicamba drift damage. Farmers and others will continue to be hurt by dicamba drift with these weak rules that give the false impression that EPA is doing something to address dicamba drift. A drift-prone herbicide like dicamba should never have been let on to the market in the first place. Monsanto and other corporations have put farmers in this position, but so far they have not been held accountable for the problems caused by their products.

We've reached out to Monsanto for a comment and will update if we hear back.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

Milkyway from Segara Anak - Rinjani Mountain. Abdul Azis / Moment / Getty Images

By Dirk Lorenzen

2021 begins as a year of Mars. Although our red planetary neighbor isn't as prominent as it was last autumn, it is still noticeable with its characteristic reddish color in the evening sky until the end of April. In early March, Mars shines close to the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less