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posted by martyb on Monday August 01 2016, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the unintended-consequences dept.

The early release of a variety of soybeans resistant to the herbicide dicamba has led to criminal spraying and the death of normal soybean crops:

Dicamba has been around for decades, and it is notorious for a couple of things: It vaporizes quickly and blows with the wind. And it's especially toxic to soybeans, even at ridiculously low concentrations. Damage from drifting pesticides isn't unfamiliar to farmers. But the reason for this year's plague of dicamba damage is unprecedented. "I've never seen anything like this before," says Bob Scott, a weed specialist from the University of Arkansas. "This is a unique situation that Monsanto created."

The story starts with Monsanto because the St. Louis-based biotech giant launched, this year, an updated version of its herbicide-tolerant soybean seeds. This new version, which Monsanto calls "Xtend," isn't just engineered to tolerate sprays of glyphosate, aka Roundup. It's also immune to dicamba.

Monsanto created dicamba-resistant soybeans (and cotton) in an effort to stay a step ahead of the weeds. The strategy of planting Roundup-resistant crops and spraying Roundup to kill weeds isn't working so well anymore, because weeds have evolved resistance to glyphosate. Adding genes for dicamba resistance, so the thinking went, would give farmers the option of spraying dicamba as well, which would clear out the weeds that survive glyphosate. There was just one hitch in the plan. A very big hitch, as it turned out. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet approved the new dicamba weedkiller that Monsanto created for farmers to spray on its new dicamba-resistant crops. That new formulation of dicamba, according to Monsanto, has been formulated so that it won't vaporize as easily, and won't be as likely to harm neighboring crops. If the EPA approves the new weedkiller, it may impose restrictions on how and when the chemical may be used.

But, Monsanto went ahead and started selling its dicamba-resistant soybeans before this herbicide was approved. It gave farmers a new weed-killing tool that they couldn't legally use.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @02:27AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @02:27AM (#382950)

    I'm going to summarize this discussion so far: OP says Monsanto is encouraging illegal activity by selling crops that are resistant to dicamba (among other traits). I say they didn't force anyone to do something illegal. I misinterpret(?) your analogy about being about the crops (I guess it was about encouraging dicamba use) and make a more suitable analogy.

    Clearly, we have differences in opinion about who is responsible when something legal is sold to someone who decides to do something illegal with it. More relevant to this instance - you seem to believe that a third-party, that is not directly involved in the sale of the legal item, has some responsibility for encouraging the illegal use of the legal item because they make a product that is resistant to it.

    Also, you should read TFA because it says that Monsanto intends to sell a formulation of dicamba that does not drift to other farms.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @03:23AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @03:23AM (#382980)

    > Clearly, we have differences in opinion about who is responsible

    One name for it is incitement.

    A name for what you are doing is apologia.

  • (Score: 2) by Osamabobama on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:41PM

    by Osamabobama (5842) on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:41PM (#383191)

    I missed a couple of items my first time through this story:

    1. Dicamba is apparently legal for some uses, but not on soybeans.

    2. The new strain of soybean has other features to recommend it besides herbicide resistance, such as increased yield.

    While Monsanto can't reasonably be held liable for this off-label use of its product, I'm sure the farmers with dead soybeans aren't happy with the company.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @04:59PM (#383200)

      > While Monsanto can't reasonably be held liable for this off-label use of its product,

      Substituting legality for morality is the path to authoritarianism.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @07:26PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @07:26PM (#383270)

        Or if not that, secularism.