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.
The Arkansas Dicamba Task Force has recommended a cut-off date for the use of the highly drift-prone and volatile herbicide by next April 15 for the 2018 season.
The state agriculture department has logged 950 misuse complaints in 26 counties as of August 23.
Although dicamba has been around for decades, Monsanto, DuPont and BASF SE sells new formulations of the product that is supposedly less drift-prone and volatile than older versions when used correctly. The herbicide can be applied to crops genetically engineered by Monsanto to resist the herbicide. But off-target fruits, vegetables and other crops are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical.
Weed specialists suspect that the thousands of crop damage reports arising across the country's farm belt are linked to dicamba exposure. Roughly 3.1 million acres have been impacted as of Aug. 10, according to Kevin Bradley, an associate professor in the University of Missouri's Division of Plant Sciences.
A video from the Arkansas Farm Bureau describes how dicamba "has become the most difficult issue the Arkansas State Plant Board and University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture weed scientists have faced in years."
Arkansas temporarily banned the use and sale of dicamba last month. Missouri and Tennessee took similar actions.
The issues surrounding dicamba surfaced last year when Monsanto sold 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.
The St. Louis-based seed-maker told Reuters that the task force's recommendation will put Arkansas farmers at a disadvantage to those in other states. Spokeswoman Charla Lord explained that Monsanto is in talks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which "is interested in achieving national uniformity with dicamba regulation in order to avoid a state patchwork." BASF and DuPont did not provide Reuters with comments.
The task force also made two other recommendations, according to BrownfieldAgNews:
- Fix the regulations as they are now concerning penalties for violators of dicamba misuse to remove the requirement for proof of damage. Misuse should constitute a violation.
- Request more independent/university testing before new products come to market (seed and chemical). And the entire "package" must be ready at once.
Arkansas' governor and state agencies will review the recommendations before making a decision. A timeline not yet been disclosed.
With the adoption of solar panels, homeowners have the opportunity to derive clean energy directly from the sun. When a homeowner decides to install solar panels on their home, they make the decision to combat greenhouse gas emissions, reduce their carbon footprint and minimize humanity's collective dependence on traditional forms of energy. Moreover, they stand to benefit by saving money through lowered utility bills. Solar energy has been embraced by homeowners across the U.S., and this is especially true in Massachusetts.
According to a recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation for solar panel installation, with the state generating 18.49% of its total electricity from solar. The state's total investment in solar is $9.1 billion, and it is anticipated that this number is only going to grow in the next few years as more homeowners realize the astounding benefits presented by solar energy. With that thought in mind, you may be wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Massachusetts?
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Massachusetts
Our team has engaged in extensive research to determine the top 10 cities for solar in Massachusetts. We examined varied studies, maps and data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environment America. This work has allowed us to determine the cities in Massachusetts that are the state's solar leaders.
- New Bedford
Boston is ranked first in Massachusetts and 20th in the nation for total installed solar PV capacity, according to Environment America's latest Shining Cities report. The city boasts over 340 MW in rooftop solar potential on small buildings and 55.51 MW per person of currently installed solar PV. It is estimated that a Bostonian who installs rooftop solar panels stands to realize $30,000 in savings on their electricity over the course of 20 years.
Lowell comes in second in the state. The city actively encourages its residents, businesses and institutions to adopt solar energy and aggressively seeks to educate stakeholders in Lowell about how solar can positively impact the community and increase the standard of living. Plus, Lowell has allowed for solar to be permitted anywhere and made extensive changes in zoning.
Home of some of the world's leading academic institutions, think tanks and the like, there is little surprise that Cambridge checks in at No. 3 on our list of top cities for solar in Massachusetts. The city engages in climate-change planning and has myriad energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs, consistently seeking to help residents and small businesses reduce energy consumption while investing in renewable energy technology. The city is committed to achieving net-zero building emissions by 2050.
Located on the Merrimack River, Lawrence has a population of about 80,000 and has been known as an industrial center since the 19th century. However, the city has gone through a substantial shift in recent years, seeking to transition from old forms of energy to innovative renewables. Lawrence has transitioned some of its major departments and schools to solar and aggressively promotes state tax incentive programs and rebates to area residents.
Another city committed to enabling a greener future for its residents, Worcester recently converted an area landfill into a solar farm that covers 52 acres of land. It is recognized as the largest solar array in New England with the ability to produce enough energy to power over 1,300 homes annually.
Here is a city that has embraced solar since 2004, when it built the first fully registered photovoltaic solar energy system. Since then, the city has continued to promote the adoption of solar energy, which has resulted in the installation of solar panels on hundreds of area homes as well as businesses. Framingham is a city that is truly dedicated to realizing a green future.
Another top city for solar in Massachusetts, Salem encourages education on solar as well as other forms of renewable energy. In 2016, the city resolved to implement 100% renewable energy by 2050 and is actively driving to achieve that goal, partly through the installation of solar PV systems.
8. New Bedford
The average homeowner in New Bedford can reap $31,000 in savings over the course of 20 years if they implement solar, so there is little wonder as to why this city is in the top 10 in Massachusetts. In fact, it has been recognized as a leading renewable community according to Environment Massachusetts and is also another municipality that is working toward achieving 100% clean energy adoption.
Home to a number of solar energy equipment companies and suppliers, Springfield is one of multiple communities across Massachusetts that hosts a solar plant that is owned and operated by Eversource. In Springfield, solar is easy to access and it's affordable, which only encourages residents to transition to this type of energy.
Falmouth is our final top city for solar in Massachusetts. It has robust renewable energy programs, and its residents are focused on making their Cape Cod community one of the leaders for renewables not only in the state, but also in the country. Additionally, Falmouth has an energy-saving program to help families in need make the switch to solar.
Where Does Solar Make the Most Sense?
It is true that solar panels tend to work best in places where there is abundant sunshine year-round, which could cast some doubt on the effectiveness of solar in Massachusetts, a state known for its long winters. However, this is a misconception, as Massachusetts is an excellent location for solar systems.
Firstly, solar panels work well in cold, winter weather and actually tend to be more efficient in colder temperatures. This, then, makes natural sense in Massachusetts. Additionally, solar is a wise choice in this state because the cost of electricity is high.
Average Massachusetts Electricity Costs
Based on a report compiled by EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a Massachusetts home is $125.89, with average monthly consumption clocking in at 574 kWh. Even though Massachusetts is the most populous state in the New England region, the state isn't the biggest spender when it comes to a monthly electric bill. In fact, Massachusetts trails just behind Connecticut in the No. 2 spot. However, the average price in cents per kWh is 21.92, making Massachusetts the costliest overall.
In places with high energy costs, homeowners can save even more money and recoup their initial investments faster. On the other hand, if electrical costs are low or moderate, an investment in solar energy isn't as significant.
Massachusetts Solar Tax Incentives
Another important thing to consider when contemplating solar in Massachusetts is the state's tax incentives. Massachusetts homeowners can take advantage of the following programs when they adopt solar energy:
|Massachusetts Personal Income Tax Credit||Homeowners can receive a credit equaling $1,000 or 15% of project costs that qualify — whichever is less.|
|Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program||This incentive is paid to residential solar system owners on behalf of Massachusetts-based investor-owned electric utilities. Participants will receive incentive payments via check or electronic payment on a monthly basis and can be enrolled in the program for 10 years.|
||This is a group solar buying program that offers discounts to residents who are located in participating communities.|
|Municipal Light Plant Solar Rebate Program||This program offers a rebate for solar photovoltaic system installation of 25 kW or less. It is available in certain Municipal Light Plant service territories.|
Massachusetts also has a statewide net metering program, which enables customers to receive credits on their utility bill for excess solar power generation in any month. Utility credits can be cashed in for electricity when your system is not generating power, such as at night. Net metering credit values depend on varied factors, including the size of your system. Residents are encouraged to learn more in order to find out if they qualify.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
Residents of Massachusetts can combine the above incentives with the federal solar tax credit to save even more on the cost of solar panels. The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is one of the key incentives for solar energy adoption in the U.S. Currently, the ITC allows American homeowners to receive a tax credit equal to 26% of the total price of their system installation and materials.
Massachusetts Solar Regulations
In 2020, Massachusetts filed emergency regulations pertaining to its SMART program. New rules were established that changed the criteria for land use and project siting. The state is ultimately seeking to move away from using greenfield sites or ecologically valuable areas for solar, instead focusing on properties where development is already underway.
The regulations also doubled the size of the program related to new solar generating capacity. This will ensure land is used properly as solar expands within the property development industry and becomes more popular among landowners.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Massachusetts
It's clear to see that Massachusetts is taking leaps toward becoming more renewable-friendly, which has earned it a position as one of the top states for solar energy in the U.S., but there's always room for improvement.
If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in Massachusetts, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include:
- Contacting your elected officials to lobby for stricter renewable energy goals
- Installing a solar PV system on your own roof
- Educating your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
By doing these things, you can impact the future of renewable energy in Massachusetts.
Farmers across 10 states are suing Monsanto, alleging that the agrochemical company sold dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean crops knowing that illegal spraying of the highly volatile and drift-prone herbicide would be inevitable.
Steven W. Landers, et al v. Monsanto Company was filed on Jan. 26 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division. Kansas City law firm Randles & Splittgerber filed on behalf of Steven and Deloris "Dee" Landers and similarly harmed farmers in 10 states—Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Illegal Herbicide Use on GMO Crops Causing Massive Damage to Fruit, Vegetable and Soybean Farms - EcoWatch https://t.co/T9AhgaKT3V @gmo917— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472089811.0
The farmers seek damages for claims including negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, conspiracy, disgorgement of profits and punitive damages.
According to a press release from the law firm, Steven and Dee Landers operate their family owned farms in New Madrid County, Missouri, and have been in business since 1976. The Landers claim that their farms have been greatly damaged by the illegal spraying of dicamba on Monsanto's Roundup Ready Xtend crops, which are genetically engineered to resist dicamba and Roundup (aka glyphosate).
Bev Randles of Randles & Splittgerber told EcoWatch that the Landers' 1,550-acre farm primarily grows soybeans and corn. In 2016, they experienced dicamba damage on more than half of their crops and acreage, resulting in a reduction of their yields in approximately the same percentage, especially with respect to their soybeans.
The farmers in the lawsuit allege that the biotech giant knowingly marketed its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds to farmers without any safe herbicide. The lawsuit claims that the company knew the only option purchasers would have to protect crops grown from those seeds would be to illegally spray dicamba to protect the crops from weeds.
"Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated," said Randles. "Monsanto's own advertising repeatedly describes its Xtend seeds and its accompanying herbicide as a 'system' intended to be used together. But when Monsanto failed to get approval to sell the herbicide, it recklessly chose to go ahead and sell the seeds regardless."
"The inevitable result was farmers throughout the country used illegal and dangerous herbicides to try to protect the Xtend seeds. That inappropriate use of herbicides, which Monsanto knew would occur and encouraged, decimated hundreds of thousands of acres of crops nationwide," Randles added.
Monsanto's rollout of its Xtend system has been marked by controversy ever since the company sold its Xtend cotton and soybeans several growing seasons before getting federal approval for the corresponding herbicide.
Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced in 2016. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only approved the corresponding herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, in late 2016. The new weedkiller is a combination of dicamba and glyphosate and is meant to address the proliferation of "superweeds" that have grown resistant to glyphosate.
EPA Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops via @EcoWatch https://t.co/9q40GlI6pL— Organic Consumers (@Organic Consumers)1478821972.0
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.
Complaints of crop damage from the powerful and volatile weedkiller dicamba have increased rapidly around the country.
According to weed scientist and University of Missouri associate professor Kevin Bradley, 17 state governments are investigating more than 1,400 official complaints of dicamba-related injuries this year covering 2.5 million acres.
"This is a substantial problem that needs to be addressed," Bradley wrote.
Reports suggest that farmers applied the herbicide to Monsanto Co.'s new dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton crops to beat back ever-resistant weeds, but the drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields, crops and native plants. Fruits and vegetables, as well as other crops that are not genetically engineered to withstand dicamba, are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical.
The current rash of complaints echoes the similar devastation last summer, when 10 states reported hundreds of thousands of crop acres adversely impacted by the apparent misuse of the herbicide.
Although dicamba has been around for decades, Monsanto, DuPont Co. and BASF SE sells new formulations of the herbicide that's said to be less drift-prone and volatile than older versions when used correctly.
Monsanto execs defended its product, blaming growers for using older versions of dicamba or not following directions on the new product label. As reported by Bloomberg:
The company attributes the drifting problem to farmers using illegal, off-label products that are more volatile—and thus more prone to drift—than the latest versions of dicamba. They may also be cleaning or using their spraying equipment incorrectly, or applying dicamba when it's windy, said Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer.
But Bradley, University of Missouri's weed scientist, casted off what he considers as industry excuses:
First, does 1,411 official dicamba-related injury investigations and/or approximately 2.5 million acres of dicamba-injured soybean constitute a problem for U.S. agriculture? I guess it depends on your perspective but my answer is an emphatic yes. If you think so as well, let others know how you feel and let's stop the standard denial routine that I have heard so often this season. Instead, lets put our time and effort into figuring out where we go from here as an industry and what's going to be different about next season.
Second, I said previously that the purpose of this article is NOT to debate about the reasons for off target movement. And it isn't. And I'm not. But the reasons for off-target movement of dicamba are the number one thing we are going to have to discuss if you agree that there is a problem. So my last question is this; can you look at the scale and the magnitude of the problem on these maps and really believe that all of this can collectively be explained by some combination of physical drift, sprayer error, failure to follow guidelines, temperature inversions, generic dicamba usage, contaminated glufosinate products, and improper sprayer clean out, but that volatility is not also a factor?
I know what my perspective is, what's yours?
In recent months, states such as Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri—Monsanto's home state—have imposed temporary bans or restrictions on the use of dicamba to curb further damage. Farmers in several states have filed lawsuits against BASF, DuPont and Monsanto over damages.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now reviewing its directions on how to use the new formulations following the crop damage reports.
"We are reviewing the current use restrictions on the labels for these dicamba formulations in light of the incidents that have been reported this year," agency spokeswoman Amy Graham told Reuters.
By Austin Wilson
The bad news for Monsanto keeps getting worse. In newly published internal Monsanto emails, a company scientist writes that "You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen ... we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement."
This news is huge because Monsanto has always focused on maintaining that glyphosate is safe for humans and the environment. In addition to concerns about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, research suggests that the other trade secret ingredients amplify the toxic effects of Roundup—and now the emails suggest that Monsanto doesn't think they can counter that argument at all.
Just Released Docs Show Monsanto 'Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data' https://t.co/aCYVEIWPSn— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1501631043.0
Glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in human history—and it accounts for the majority of Monsanto's profits. It is time that the truth about glyphosate comes out.
As You Sow has been following glyphosate's trail for quite a while. With the use of glyphosate skyrocketing and its persistence in water and soil, these new revelations are extremely concerning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has clearly not done its due diligence in assessing Roundup's toxicity, and we may be paying a terrible price for it.
As You Sow has provided a detailed analysis of these issues in its new report, RoundUp Revealed: Glyphosate in Our Food System.
Our bottom line is that pesticide-intensive agriculture is unnecessary. Investors need to engage with companies to address the rise of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides in the food system.
Here are the key findings from our report:
Genetically engineered crops are the largest driver of glyphosate sales. Although GE crops were promised to decrease pesticide use and provide a multitude of other benefits, the vast majority of GE crops grown in the U.S. are engineered to tolerate direct applications of glyphosate or to produce Bt insecticide.
Pre-harvest use of glyphosate significantly increases residues of glyphosate in food. This growing practice increases public health risks, provides farmers with marginal benefit, and has been banned by Germany and Austria. We estimate that 28% of U.S. wheat was treated with glyphosate in 2015, and much of this use may be pre-harvest. As You Sow is working with leading food companies to investigate this practice. For instance, Kellogg Company has agreed to investigate pre-harvest glyphosate use in its supply chain.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Research also suggests that glyphosate may have other health impacts including disruption of the endocrine system and other biological processes. These impacts can be amplified by the "inert" ingredients in Roundup and other herbicide products. Independent scientists recommend a limit on glyphosate exposure at least 17 times lower than current U.S. regulation.
Glyphosate is present throughout the food system and our environment. A recent biomonitoring study by UCSF identified glyphosate in 93% of individuals tested and in 60% of surface water in the Midwest. The herbicide has been found to persist in water and soil up to a year in some conditions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that glyphosate is "unlikely to be carcinogenic;" criticism of the EPA's methods and integrity is growing. In making its determination that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic, the EPA did not consider the vast majority of academic science and failed to follow its own guidelines, according to its advisory panel. Recently unsealed emails raise concerns about conflicts of interest within the highest levels of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.
As use of glyphosate has skyrocketed, weeds have developed resistance, with half of U.S. farms reporting glyphosate-resistant "superweeds." The response of the highly consolidated seed and pesticide industry has been the introduction of new GE crops that are engineered to be used with glyphosate as well as 2,4-D and dicamba. These herbicides are known to be more toxic and volatile than glyphosate. Monsanto, the firm that sells half of the world's glyphosate, is strategically focused on continuing to sell GE crops that are to be used with herbicides. Now, the company is merging with Bayer, another major seed and pesticide company, which will further decrease competitiveness in the industry and provide greater synergy with the companies' pesticide sales.
Pesticide-intensive agriculture has been shown to be unnecessary. United Nations food and pollution experts' 2017 report to the UN Human Rights Council reiterates that pesticides are not necessary to feed the world, warns of catastrophic consequences if current pesticide-intensive farming practices continue, and criticizes pesticide manufacturers for "systematic denial of harms" and "unethical marketing tactics."
We recommend that investors engage with companies in the food, retail, and restaurant sectors to address the growing risks of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides in the food system. Food companies should mandate reduced use of glyphosate in their supply chains, especially pre-harvest use, and focus on increasing preventive measures such as clear and binding weed resistance prevention plans.
Austin Wilson oversees the Environmental Health Program at As You Sow.
Wineries in Texas are worried that federal approval of two highly volatile and drift-prone herbicides used on neighboring genetically modified (GMO) cotton fields will cause widespread damage to their vineyards, The Texas Tribune details.
Dicamba damage on a grape leaves. Uky.edu
The herbicides in question are Monsanto's dicamba-based XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, which was approved in November by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Dow AgroSciences' 2,4-D-based Enlist Duo, which the EPA also proposed to register for use on GMO cotton seeds. Enlist Duo is already used on GMO corn and soybean crops in 15 states.
"The approval of these formulations will wind up affecting every vineyard up there," explained Paul Bonarrigo, a Hale County vintner who believes that his withering grapevines have been damaged by the illegal spraying of dicamba and 2,4-D on nearby cotton farms. Bonarrigo believes that the state's $2 billion wine industry is in jeopardy.
The debacle is yet another chapter in the expanding issue of herbicide-resistant weeds, or superweeds, that have evolved to resist the herbicide glyphosate, or Roundup. In response to weeds such as pigweed that have infested farms across the U.S., agribusinesses such as Monsanto and Dow have developed ever stronger weedkillers to help farmers.
EPA Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops https://t.co/jeLHlmAgi4 @GMOFreeUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478905512.0
As noble as that might sound, Monsanto was especially criticized when it decided to sell its dicamba- and glyphosate-resistant soybean and cotton seeds to farmers before securing EPA approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced earlier this year.
Without having the proper herbicide, cotton and soy farmers resorted to spraying older versions of dicamba on their crops. But dicamba, as well as the herbicide 2,4-D, are extremely prone to drift, meaning the chemicals can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring fields that cannot withstand the chemical damage. When exposed to the herbicide, leaves on non-target plants are often left cupped and distorted.
Researchers from Ohio State University published a study in September showing that herbicide spray drift from the 2,4-D and dicamba can severely damage wine grape plants near agronomic crops.
Common leaf injury symptoms observed in vines 42 d after being treated with (a) glyphosate, (b) 2,4-D, (c) dicamba, and (d) nontreated controlOhio State University
Although Monsanto said it warned farmers against illegal dicamba spraying, this past summer, dicamba drift caused 10 states to report widespread damage on thousands of acres of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans.
Last month, Missouri's largest peach grower filed a lawsuit against Monsanto over claims that dicamba drift damaged more than 7,000 peach trees on the farm, amounting to $1.5 million in losses. This year, the farm said it lost more than 30,000 trees, with financial losses estimated in the millions.
Regulators assured to The Texas Tribune that the new pesticides are less likely to vaporize and drift, and the risk of damage will lessen if farmers follow safety precautions.
"I don't see this as being any more of an issue than what we have today," Steve Verett, executive vice president of the Plains Cotton Growers, told the publication. "I understand there are other sensitive crops as well. No matter what the product is or the farmer that's spraying, they need to make sure that the product they're spraying stays on their farm."
Kyel Richard, a spokesman for Monsanto, added that the company has conducted training exercises and education efforts to minimize "the opportunity for movement off- site and ensuring those herbicides are staying on target and controlling those weeds on the field that they're intended for."
State wineries, however, are worried that with the EPA's approval, use of dicamba and 2,4-D will expand to include 3.7 million acres of cotton fields.
"I could see it basically killing the [wine] industry, honestly," Garrett Irwin, owner of Cerro Santo vineyard in Lubbock County, countered. "If we get the levels of damage that I'm afraid we'll get, vineyards will not be able to recover or produce grapes at any sustainable level, and we're just going to have to go away."
Monsanto's Glyphosate Found in California Wines, Even Wines Made With Organic Grapes https://t.co/YTgMzBG4Fe @justlabelit @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1459124716.0
Irwin also commented that cotton and soy farmers are likely to stick with old dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides because the new formulations are more expensive. Additionally, farmers have to upgrade their equipment with anti-drift nozzles to use the new products.
"I honestly don't think farmers will buy the new formulations when older labels that cost less are available and just as effective as the new labels," he said. "In short, I think farmers will buy generic chemicals without the additives to save money because the cotton won't know the difference."
And if they do buy the new herbicides, there will still be some farmers who "will do nothing to correct for negligence in spraying," Irwin said.
Pheasant Ridge Valley winery owner Bobby Cox told The Texas Tribune that he is worried that cotton farmers will have no choice but to switch to the new seeds system.
Cox said that 2,4-D drift in 2015 caused the amount of sugar in his grapes to be about 5 percent less than ideal.
"It will be catastrophic not only to vineyards but to oak trees, to pecan orchards, to shrubs," Cox said. "If they apply the amount of 2,4-D that they did Roundup and are equally irresponsible with that, it will kill everything green up here. I wish people would understand how important wine growing is for this area, how wonderful of a crop it is on the High Plains. It would be a shame to lose it when we're starting to get recognized."
10 States Report Crop Damage From Illegal Dicamba Use on Monsanto's GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472867707.0
Not only that, environmental experts worry about dicamba's threat on biodiversity and wonder if pesticide-makers are just creating another cycle of herbicide resistance.
"Once again the EPA is allowing for staggering increases in pesticide use that will undoubtedly harm our nation's most imperiled plants and animals," said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, after the EPA approved the Xtend weedkiller. "Iconic species like endangered whooping cranes are known to visit soybean fields, and now they'd be exposed to this toxic herbicide at levels they've never seen before."
"We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill," he continued. "Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution—it's a losing strategy."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decisions Friday on whether federal and Hawai'i state laws preempt Hawai'i counties' authority to regulate genetically engineered (GE) crops and pesticide use. Of significance to state and local communities throughout the U.S., the Ninth Circuit ruled that federal law—specifically, the Plant Protection Act—does not prohibit states and counties from passing local laws to regulate and ban commercially-grown GE crops.
"Today's decision to allow states and counties to ban or regulate GE crops is an important victory for GE-free seed sanctuaries and small communities and farmers around the country," George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said.
In granting its decision the court recognized potential harm to farmers and environment from the widespread planting of GE crops, asserting, "the cultivation and testing of GE plants raise several well-documented concerns." Notably, the court affirmed, "transgenic contamination has previously caused significant economic impacts on farmers of conventional, non-GE crops."
The court acknowledged as well that "the cultivation of GE crops also may raise environmental concerns, such as harm to beneficial plants and animals caused by the increased use of pesticides sometimes associated with testing and growing GE crops, the proliferation of 'superweeds' and other pests resistant to pesticides, and the reduction of biodiversity." The court went on to declare: "The regulation of commercialized crops, both of GE and traditional varieties, remains within the authority of state and local governments."
At the same time, however, the court ruled that under Hawai'i law, counties and municipalities do not have the authority to regulate GE crops (as some in other states do), and that Hawai'i state law places such authority in the hands of the State alone.
"We're disappointed that the court misinterpreted Hawai'i law and concluded the Hawai'i legislature decided Hawai'i counties lack any such authority," Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said. "The legislature did not, and the decision leaves Hawai'i unprotected from the harms the Ninth Circuit acknowledged. We believe that when Hawai'i's state courts have an opportunity, they will reject the Ninth Circuit's conclusion on this point and allow Hawai'i's people to protect themselves, since the State certainly hasn't protected them."
The court also ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alone has the authority to regulate field trials and experimental GE crops; neither states nor local governments can ban or approve. This is particularly troubling to communities in Hawai'i, since the many field trials and associated pesticide use in Hawai'i poses significant risks to local citizens and the environment
"We are extremely disappointed with the ruling that some experimental GE field trials can only be regulated by USDA, and are considering all legal options. Most importantly, we continue to stand and fight with the people of Hawaiʻi against these chemical companies," Kimbrell said.
Attorneys with Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, who represented local residents, conservation groups, and Hawai'i County in the proceedings, are analyzing the full scope of the court's decisions and will be considering options that would protect Hawai'i's people, farms and the environment.
"As a mother and a resident of Kekaha, Kauaʻi, I will continue to stand up and protect my family and my community," said Malia Kahale'ina Chun, a mother, educator and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner. "It is our responsibility to insure that our keiki have access to clean air, clean water and to 'āina that sustains them."
Missouri's largest peach grower is suing Monsanto over claims that dicamba drift caused widespread damage to the farm's peach trees. This is Monsanto's first lawsuit over the illegal spraying of the herbicide on its genetically modified (GMO) cotton and soy that's suspected of causing extensive damage to non-target crops across America's farm belt.
Peach tree damaged by dicamba drift Kade McBroom
The lawsuit, Bader Farms, Inc., et al v. Monsanto Company, Case No. 16DU-CC00111, was filed in Dunklin County, Missouri on Nov. 23. Bill Bader of Bader Farms in Campbell, Missouri claims that more than 7,000 peach trees were damaged by the drift-prone and extremely volatile herbicide in 2015, amounting to $1.5 million in losses. This year, the farm said it lost more than 30,000 trees, with financial losses estimated in the millions.
The complaint accuses Monsanto of knowingly selling dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before securing federal approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced earlier this year. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only
approved the corresponding herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, last month.
Even though the biotech company warned growers against illegal dicamba use on the crops, many farmers allegedly sprayed older versions of dicamba on the crops anyway to stop weeds. However, while Monsanto's crops are genetically engineered to tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops cannot. And since dicamba is extremely prone to drift, it can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring fields, crops and native plants. In the fall, 10 states reported horrific damage on thousands of acres of peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans.
[email protected] Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops https://t.co/AfYsMUFOyH @CenterForBioDiv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478804159.0
Bader said in August that 400-500 farmers in his region have been affected: "If they don't get compensation 60 percent will be out of business in two years."
"We need to go after Monsanto. These farmers are being hung out to dry," Bader added.
Bader's lawsuit alleges that Monsanto chose to sell its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds knowing that such destructive spraying would be inevitable.
"Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated," Bev Randles of Randles & Splittgerber, the Kansas City, Missouri law firm representing Bader Farms, said in a statement. "We believe it is against Monsanto's own practice, not to mention industry standards, to release a seed without a corresponding herbicide to protect the crop from destruction. But Monsanto chose greed over public safety and made farms in Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas unwilling test labs for their defective seed system."
The law firm expects similar lawsuits to follow. "Our firm continues to be contacted to help farmers who have been harmed by Monsanto's actions," Randles said. "They are folks who have supported Monsanto by purchasing their products for years, only to have been betrayed in the end. We expect more farmers to file suit in the coming weeks."
In response, Monsanto said that the responsibility lies with the growers who illegally applied dicamba.
"Both prior to and throughout the 2016 season, Monsanto took many steps to remind growers, dealers and applicators that dicamba was not approved for in-crop use at the time, and we do not condone the illegal use of any pesticide," the company said in a statement to Brownfield. "While we sympathize with those who have been impacted by farmers who chose to apply dicamba illegally, this lawsuit attempts to shift responsibility away from individuals who knowingly and intentionally broke state and federal law and harmed their neighbors in the process. Responsibility for these actions belongs to those individuals alone. We will defend ourselves accordingly."
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. The firm expects to see 15 million Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean acres and more than 3 million acres of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton in 2017. According to AgWeb, the technology is also licensed to more than 100 additional brands. The company has invested more than $1 billion in a dicamba production facility in Luling, Louisiana, to meet the demand it predicts.
Critics, however, are worried about the herbicide's potential threat to biodiversity, that it forces growers to switch to the Xtend system and that it only creates another round of superweeds. Dicamba-resistant weeds have already been found in Kansas and Nebraska.
"We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill," Dr. Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity said. "Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution—it's a losing strategy."
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally approved over-the-top use of Monsanto's dicamba-based herbicide XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans that have already been on the market for several growing seasons.
Cucumber plant injured by dicamba driftUniversity of Arkansas
This means that farmers will no longer have to illegally spray their genetically modified (GMO) cotton and soy with older versions of an extremely volatile and drift-prone herbicide. Over the summer, such activities caused 10 states to report widespread damage on thousands of acres of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans. And last month, a dicamba drift dispute between Arkansas farmers resulted in one farmer being shot to death.
Although Monsanto said it warned farmers against illegal dicamba spraying, the company was sharply criticized for selling its latest batch of GMO seeds before securing EPA approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced earlier this year.
"We need to go after Monsanto. These farmers are being hung out to dry," said Bill Bader, owner of Bader Peaches, Missouri's largest peach producer, who estimated a loss of 30,000 trees.
University of Arkansas weed specialist Bob Scott said in an interview with National Public Radio, "This is a unique situation that Monsanto created."
3 Major Problems With #Monsanto's New #GMO Soybeans https://t.co/mngbp6VXIj @nongmoreport @NonGMOProject @FoodDemocracy @drvandanashiva— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1470227532.0
Ryan Rubischko, who heads Monsanto's North America dicamba portfolio, said the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller reduces "volatility potential compared to dicamba formulations currently on the market today."
Monsanto spokesperson Kyel Richard told the St. Louis Dispatch that the product still needs approval from individual states before the product hits the shelves but still expects it to roll out by 2017.
Some growers have already expressed that they have no choice but to switch to the new Xtend system, as the St. Louis Dispatch writes:
"With or without approval of the new herbicide, affected farmers have indicated they will be forced to switch to dicamba-resistant varieties as an insurance policy for future growing seasons. Some also question whether the release of the new, less-volatile variety will put an end to damage from drift, as scofflaw farmers may still be inclined to use off-label varieties if they are a cheaper alternative."
Weed experts are also concerned that the new product has very specific application instructions and are unclear about its chemical makeup. According to DTN:
"University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager told DTN that his biggest concern is that spray applicators understand that herbicide volatility and physical drift are different. 'The need to carefully follow label directions and keep this product physically on-target will be critical and require a lot of attention to detail both during application and clean out of sprayers,' Hager said.
"'It doesn't take much of dicamba to cause damage to sensitive crops and we have a lot of sensitive crops to consider. Having a reduced-volatility formulation does not eliminate physical drift,' he added.
"XtendiMax herbicide is a diglycolamine (DGA) salt—the same salt used in Clarity herbicide. Monsanto has told DTN in past correspondence that it is the VaporGrip additive that prevents the formation of dicamba acid and lowers volatility, based on company tests. However, university weed scientists have complained that they've not been allowed to test the new formulations to compare to older products such as Banvel and Clarity."
Critical details on newly approved #dicamba formulation, from @PamSmithDTN. Note the ban on tank mixing: https://t.co/nFUkygjVW8 #plant17— Emily Unglesbee (@Emily Unglesbee)1478789719.0
Environmentalists also worry about dicamba's threat on biodiversity.
"Once again the EPA is allowing for staggering increases in pesticide use that will undoubtedly harm our nation's most imperiled plants and animals," said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Iconic species like endangered whooping cranes are known to visit soybean fields, and now they'd be exposed to this toxic herbicide at levels they've never seen before."
Another issue is that Monsanto is creating another cycle of herbicide resistance. Monsanto developed its Xtend system to address "superweeds" that have grown resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's former bread-and-butter, Roundup.
"We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill," said Donley. "Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution—it's a losing strategy."
The Center for Biological Diversity said the new EPA decision will open the door for dicamba use to jump from less than 1 million pounds to more than 25 million annually on these two crops.
Breaking news: morning after the election, EPA rushes out decision that will massively increase use of toxic pestic… https://t.co/YJbpfGlvdd— Lori Ann Burd (@Lori Ann Burd)1478728673.0
Ronnie Citron-Fink of Moms Clean Air Force told EcoWatch she is worried about the health impacts of increased pesticide use.
"We worry about pesticide exposure because children are more susceptible to chemicals through the air they breathe, the food they eat, and the water they drink. This is especially true in communities where homes, schools, and playgrounds are in close proximity to pesticide use," Citron-Fink said.
Monsanto expects to see 15 million Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean acres and more than 3 million acres of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton in 2017. According to AgWeb, the technology is also licensed to more than 100 additional brands. The company has invested more than $1 billion in a dicamba production facility in Luling, Louisiana, to meet the demand it predicts.
The EPA has registered the XtendiMax formula for use on dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton for sale and use in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
A tiny bug is behind a major problem in the global farmed salmon industry.
The sea louse, or salmon louse, is eating into farmed Atlantic salmon supplies in Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Canada, driving salmon prices higher and creating a "chemical arms race in the seas," the Guardian reports.
Salmon companies around the world are spending an estimated $1.25 billion a year combined to tackle such outbreaks, the publication notes.
Salmon lice attach themselves onto wild or farmed salmon, living off the host fish's blood and skin and leaving it vulnerable to infections. As EcoWatch explained previously, crowded conditions in pens used for raising salmon can provide an ideal breeding ground for sea lice. In farms in some parts of the world, a pesticide is used to combat sea lice that is toxic to marine life and banned by both the European Union and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"What we are seeing now is a chemical arms race in the seas, just like on the land farms, where the resistance of plants to chemicals is growing," Don Staniford, head of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, told the Guardian. "In fish farms, the parasites are increasing resistance to chemicals and antibiotics. There has been a 10-fold increase in the use of some chemicals in the past 18 months."
Chemicals used to control salmon lice rose 932 percent on Scottish farms in the last decade, even though farmed salmon production only increased by 35 percent. Norway has ramped up its usage of hydrogen peroxide baths surged as well.
But like superweeds, salmon lice are growing resistant to such chemicals and antibiotics, leading some salmon farms to resort to potentially risky methods to beat back the parasite.
Sea Shepherd, Pamela Anderson Team Up to Investigate Salmon Farming Industry - EcoWatch https://t.co/C5Ja1rjCuk @SeafoodWatch @Oceanwire— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1468879248.0
Staniford also described how some farms are using mechanical ways to remove the lice.
"They are using hydro-dousers, like huge carwashes, and thermal lousing, which heats them up," he said.
Some farms in Norway have successfully used this delousing method, deploying millions of wrasse to keep their salmon stocks healthy.
However, even that technique has a catch—a new study found that this practice may be depleting wild wrasse populations.
Monsanto has officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.
Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.
EPA Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops https://t.co/jeLHlmAgi4 @GMOFreeUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478905512.0
Angry online comments have flooded the Times-Picayune's coverage of the Feb. 3 groundbreaking. The newspaper's Facebook post of the story has garnered 433 shares and 114 comments so far, with many people criticizing the new plant as well as the company itself.
"120 jobs isn't worth having this toxic company in your backyard...," the top Facebook comment states. The comment was "Liked" 117 times.
"Diacamba [sic] is bad. California just won the right to label Roundup as cancer causing," a newspaper reader commented. "So excited for Cancer Alley to grow."
Indeed, California could become the first state to require Monsanto to label its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen following a judge's tentative ruling on Jan. 27. Monsanto opposes the ruling, saying its top-selling product is safe.
Judge Blocks Monsanto's Bid to Stop California From Listing Glyphosate as Carcinogenic https://t.co/srYsV0fmtA @justlabelit @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485814210.0
But Monsanto's $975 million investment on dicamba represents a major shift from its "bread-and-butter glyphosate herbicide business," as Reuters noted. Glyphosate, the world's most widely applied herbicide, has faced intense backlash ever since the World Health Organization's cancer research arm linked the compound to cancer in March 2015.
The other major problem with glyphosate is the proliferation of "superweeds" that have grown resistant to the herbicide. Monsanto's new XtendiMax weedkiller, a combination of dicamba and glyphosate, is designed to address the problem.
Many health and environmental advocates, however, are worried that the company's new focus on dicamba will just put the world on another pesticide treadmill and create stronger weeds.
"Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides," said Dr. Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Dicamba was at the center of major controversy in the agricultural space last summer. Monsanto was criticized for selling its dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans to farmers for several growing seasons before gaining federal approval for the pesticide that goes along with it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only approved the XtendiMax formulation in November. The EPA's delayed approval led to farmers illegally spraying older versions of highly volatile dicamba on their crops last summer, sparking a massive swath of complaints from farmers who saw crop damage from the herbicide drifting onto their fields.
Damage was reported across 10 states on a number of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans, the EPA said.
10 States Report Crop Damage From Illegal Dicamba Use on Monsanto's GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472867707.0
XtendiMax is said to be less drift-prone than older versions of dicamba. Monsanto has also given farmers specific instructions for its application. The company has high hopes for its new product, projecting that the XtendiMax system will be utilized on about 15 million soybean acres and 3 million cotton acres in 2017.
"Monsanto is committing to a nearly billion dollar Dicamba expansion where a new tool to fight invasive species/pests will be produced," Mike Strain, Louisiana's commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, said after the groundbreaking ceremony last week.
"This herbicide should greatly benefit our Ag producers. The expansion will also bring approximately 1000 construction jobs to St. Charles Parish and about 100 new direct jobs to the area."
The new facility in Luling is expected to be completed in 2019.
Monsanto Shareholders Approve Bayer Merger to Form World's Largest Seed and Chemical Company https://t.co/2cEeaJjiZt @GMOFreeUSA @GMOTruth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481756711.0
"It was a productive meeting about the future of agriculture and the need for innovation," a Bayer spokesman told Reuters.
The German chemical giant's pending takeover of the U.S. seedmaker would form the largest seed and
pesticide company in the world. Consolidation of the two massive companies—not to mention the deals between DuPont and Dow Chemical Co, and ChemChina and Syngenta—will completely reshape the global seed and pesticide markets.
According to FOX Business, Baumann and Grant told Trump that a successful merger would create or keep jobs in the U.S. It is currently unclear how Trump responded to their plans during the meeting.
"The CEOs are hoping that the prospect of additional U.S. jobs coming from the merger will be enough incentive for the incoming Trump administration to approve the acquisition," FOX wrote.
The multibillion-dollar merger still needs regulatory approval in several markets including the U.S. and Europe, and has already been subject to U.S. state and federal antitrust investigations.
States Join Fed's Antitrust Probes of Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont Mergers via @EcoWatch https://t.co/UWYoTsUfVB— Monsanto Tribunal (@Monsanto Tribunal)1478729185.0
While the companies tout the proposed deal as an altruistic plan to feed a growing global population and improve "the lives of growers and people around the world," critics are worried that a successful merger will lead to fewer choices and increased prices for farmers as well as a monopolization of the world food supply.
As it happens, Trump's nominees will be leading antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Trump has yet to name his nominee to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Business analysts have said that the president-elect's nominee for attorney general—Sen. Jeff Sessions, a pro-business conservative from Alabama—is good news for any pending mega-deals.
#Trump's Pick for Attorney General Could Be Big Boost to #Monsanto https://t.co/Up1cnrLz0t @foodandwater @WenonahHauter @nongmoreport @EWG— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479759080.0
"Sessions' likely nomination and confirmation by the Senate, in which he has served since 1997, is a market positive for merger and acquisition activity," Terry Haines of the investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI, wrote.
"Sessions as attorney general would shift immediately from the current mostly 'red light' Obama antitrust/competition policy and move towards one that would be friendlier to M&A activity," Haines added.
Iowa agribusiness mogul Bruce Rastetter, a member of that committee who has been shortlisted for the empty USDA spot, told The Journal he plans to raise his concerns about the mergers directly with Trump in the near future.
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist for Pesticide Action Network, has grave concerns over the merger.
"Just six corporations already dominate worldwide seed and pesticide markets," she said. "Additional consolidation will increase prices and further limit choices for farmers, while allowing Monsanto and friends to continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides. Instead, we need to invest in agroecological, resilient and productive farming."