Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Scientists Skip Monsanto Dicamba Summit as Controversies Mount Over Damaging Herbicide

Popular
Scientists Skip Monsanto Dicamba Summit as Controversies Mount Over Damaging Herbicide
Soybean pod and seed damage caused by dicamba. jwolf7447/Instagram

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.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
Trending
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less