Quantcast
GMO
Soybean pod and seed damage caused by dicamba. jwolf7447/Instagram

Scientists Skip Monsanto Dicamba Summit as Controversies Mount Over Damaging Herbicide

Several U.S. weed scientists have turned down an invitation to attend Monsanto's dicamba summit near St. Louis this week, as controversies unfold over the company's new Xtend Crop System, Reuters reported.

Experts have linked the highly volatile and drift-prone herbicide to the damage of 3.1 million acres of crops that are not genetically engineered to resist the powerful chemical. Arkansas, which has logged the most dicamba-related complaints, is a step away from banning the chemical (again) next summer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also consulting with state officials and scientists, including ones in Arkansas, on potential regulations.


According to Reuters, the agrichemical giant is hosting the summit to "win backing" from the scientists in "efforts to convince regulators the product is safe to use." At the summit, the company plans to present data claiming that user error is behind the crop injuries.

Weed scientists from Arkansas and Missouri—Monsanto's home state—are reportedly skipping the summit.

University of Missouri plant sciences professor Kevin Bradley, who has extensively logged the nation's massive swath of dicamba-related damage, told Reuters that he is not attending the summit because he does not think Monsanto will discuss volatilization.

Monsanto's vice president of global strategy Scott Partridge told Reuters that this will be the company's largest summit on dicamba so far and at least half of the 60 people invited plan to attend.

University of Arkansas professor Jason Norsworthy has also declined to present a summary of national drift and volatility research at the summit.

Notably, after an Arkansas task force recommended that the state bar dicamba spraying next year, Monsanto filed a petition questioning the objectivity of Norsworthy and fellow Arkansas weed expert Ford Baldwin due to their supposed connections to Bayer Crop Science, which makes the competing weedkiller glufosinate. An ad from Bayer's LibertyLink product featured a quote from Norsworthy, "The next best technology is already available in the LibertyLink system."

Tom Barber and Bob Scott, who are also University of Arkansas experts, will skip the meeting as well.

"With Monsanto questioning of the integrity of our science, we felt it was best not to participate," university spokeswoman Mary Hightower told Reuters.

Dr. Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, defended Norsworthy.

"There are several points in the petition we need to address immediately: First, Norsworthy's findings are anything but an outlier. It is consistent with research work in other states, including that of Kevin Bradley in Missouri, Tom Mueller and Larry Steckel in Tennessee, and elsewhere," he wrote.

"Second, none of our researchers has ever endorsed any product, but sometimes companies use our public comments and statements without our permission."

University of Tennessee weed scientist Tom Mueller will be attending. He told Reuters he plans to pay his own way to the event even though Monsanto said it would foot travel costs. But he noted that he was skeptical Monsanto would engage in discussions.

"I think it's just going to be a monologue," he said.

The controversy surrounding dicamba started last year when Monsanto decided to sell its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds several growing seasons before getting federal approval for the corresponding herbicide. Without having the proper herbicide, cotton and soybean growers were suspected of illegally spraying older versions of dicamba onto their crops and inadvertently damaging nearby non-target crops due to drift and volatilization. Off-target crops are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical. Monsanto, DuPont and BASF SE now sell new federally approved dicamba formulations that the companies say are less drift-prone and volatile than older versions when used correctly.

Monsanto developed its Xtend system to address "superweeds" that have grown resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in the company's former bread-and-butter, Roundup. Xtend crops are expected to expand across 80 million acres in the U.S., creating a $400-$800 million opportunity for the company.

The world's largest seedmaker has been accused of having staffers ghost-write favorable studies about glyphosate that federal regulators used to determine that the chemical does not cause cancer.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!