Will new restrictions on dicamba spraying save US food crops?

by GMWatch.org


There are new rules around the spraying of dicamba herbicide on GM dicamba-tolerant soybeans – but experts say they won’t do much to protect non-target plants from damage

A dicamba/glyphosate herbicide mix is being sprayed on Monsanto’s GM soybeans that are tolerant to both herbicides. The herbicide is drifting and volatilizing onto neighbouring non-target plants, including non-GM soybeans and a wide variety of food crops, garden plants and wild plants, resulting in massive damage to those crops and plants and even a decline in honey production.

In an attempt to reduce off-target spray damage next year, the US EPA has issued new tighter use restrictions that are displayed on the herbicide product labels. They tell farmers how, what, and when to spray.

In addition, a group of weed specialists has compiled a list of spraying guidelines for farmers growing the GM soybeans – see the article below. These include lowering the height of the spraying booms to try to reduce drift; restricting the types of chemicals that can be added to the spray tank mix; and avoiding spraying during temperature inversions, which can cause dicamba volatilization and movement.

Will the new recommendations work in protecting non-target plants from damage?

Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee Extension weed specialist, is doubtful. He is quoted on Twitter as saying: “We hear from the Captains at @MonsantoCo that we can easily fix this (off-target #dicamba movement) with increased training. I don’t think we can. I will do my best, but I think we are fighting a losing battle.”

In a powerpoint presentation featured on Twitter, Steckel comments extensively on the new recommendations. He says that following the label restrictions will be “nearly impossible”, adding that there is a “very small window of time to spray”.

The 24″ boom height recommendation is, he adds, “a joke”. Regarding the requirement not to spray if rain is expected in the next 24 hours, he asks, “Who is that accurate […] a forecaster?” He says that avoiding temperature inversions will be “impossible” to do consistently.

Steckel is uncompromising in his rejection of industry claims that problems have largely arisen due to farmers using old dicamba formulations rather than the new ones, which are sold as less prone to drift and volatilization: “BASF/Monsanto have cast a lot of blame on this with little evidence and NO solutions.”

He adds that the volatility of the new formulations is “hard to address” when industry “despite evidence, will not consider it an issue”.

Howard Vlieger, Iowa farmer and crop and livestock nutrition advisor, says,

“The only thing that is predictable regarding dicamba/glyphosate herbicide is this. There will be more damage next year than there was this year, but probably not as much to other soybean crops.

Many farmers are bowing to the threat of drift by ordering GM dicamba-tolerant seed. The saddest part of the drift story is the damage that will be experienced by the gardens (vegetable and flower), vineyards, orchards, trees and shrubs along with alfalfa and clover fields.

Regrettably this did not receive as much news coverage as the soybean fields that were affected, even though vegetable gardens and orchards produce food for direct human consumption and are therefore more immediately vital to food security.”

Read the full article at GMWatch.org


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