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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, @05:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @05:06PM (#383202)

    > Monsanto sold soybean seeds that were legal and resistant to dicamba, glyphosate, as well as higher yielding.

    Are you really going to just take that at face value? Did any of that other stuff even factor into the sale of the soybeans or is it is just marketing hype that no actual farmers give a shit about because the practical effects are too small to matter? If the NSA said the equivalent about one of their programs would you just believe them? Why does Monsanto get the benefit of the doubt?

    > Farmer legally buys dicamba from someone else. The farmer then decides to use the dicamba in a way that is illegal and damages a neighbor's crops.

    You have cause and effect reversed here. He bought the poison because he had been sold the soybeans. Without the soybeans he would never have bought the poison.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @06:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02 2016, @06:06PM (#383236)

    Are you really going to just take that at face value?

    The resistance to dicamba and glyphosate - yes.
    The higher yield - I don't know, but if I were a farmer then I would research the claim before buying the seeds. My guess is that Monsanto started with higher yield strain before introducing the resistance genes (they certainly wouldn't choose a poor yield strain).
    Monsanto telling the customers that they weren't allowed to use dicamba - yes (it was probably included in the contract).

    marketing hype that no actual farmers give a shit about

    If you were making the case that Monsanto tricked farmers into doing something illegal, then I'd understand why you believed they held some responsibility. I didn't see any evidence for that in TFA and it doesn't seem like you believe it, anyway.

    It seems like you believe the farmers bought the seeds (intending to take advantage of their dicamba resistance - despite being told not to), then bought the dicamba (intending to use it illegally), and finally decided to illegally use the dicamba which caused harm on their neighbor's crops.