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Monsanto Seeks to Expand Use of Devastating Herbicide to GMO Corn

March 19th, 2019
Center for Food Safety

Monsanto Seeks to Expand Use of Devastating Herbicide to GMO Corn

Drifting Herbicide Has Already Caused Unprecedented Damage to Millions of Crop Acres

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced receipt of a petition from Monsanto yesterday to allow the company's highly drift-prone herbicide, dicamba, to be sprayed on the company's GMO corn, which is genetically engineered to withstand it. Monsanto was recently acquired by Bayer CropScience.

Over the past two years, dicamba drifting from fields of Monsanto's GMO soybeans and cotton has damaged crops, gardens, wild plants, and trees on a scale unprecedented in the history of modern agriculture. If EPA grants the petition, drift damage would become even worse as it would allow dicamba to be widely sprayed on America's largest-acreage crop, corn.

"It beggars belief that Monsanto would propose expanding the devastation its GMO-herbicide package has already caused," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety (CFS). "EPA must finally defend farmers and the environment from further injuries by immediately rejecting this petition."

For the past several years, CFS has led farmers and other NGOs in a lawsuit against EPA and Monsanto for illegally approving Monsanto's dicamba formulation, known as XtendiMax, for use on cotton and soybeans. EPA managed to evade a potential ruling in favor of CFS and farmers by dragging out court proceedings until late 2018, and then extending its XtendiMax approval through 2020 shortly before the Court's decision was due. CFS and its allied groups have refiled their case, which is now again pending this spring.

"Thoughout the dicamba debacle, EPA has entirely failed to account for its significant impacts to farmers and the environment, which was in direct violation of federal pesticide law," said CFS legal director George Kimbrell. "The Agency is likewise derelict in its duty to protect literally hundreds of endangered species in the areas of the approval. Doubling down on these errors by nonetheless allowing its use on GMO corn will make matters immeasurably worse on both fronts," he added.

Dicamba damage threatens the livelihood of countless farmers. Bill Bader of Missouri has lost thousands of peach trees from his orchard, and the fruit he can harvest has shrunk to the size of walnuts. John Seward of South Dakota has seen his vegetable farm devastated by several times by dicamba drift, and may go out of business. Resort operator Mike Hayes has lost the vegetable garden that once fed his guests, as well as numerous bald cypress trees that are home to bald eagles and ospreys, to repeated bouts of dicamba drift and runoff. Beekeeper Richard Coy has shut down his Arkansas honey operation and is moving his hives to Mississippi because dicamba drift in Arkansas has killed so many flowering plants that his honeybees were deprived of the nectar and pollen they need. Hundreds of farmers have also filed class action lawsuits because of the damage.

Monsanto claimed that XtendiMax would not drift like older versions of the herbicide, and could be used safely on the company's GMOs. But the company prohibited university scientists from testing these claims prior to the herbicide's introduction in 2017. Two years of independent studies by agronomists in Arkansas, Tennessee, and elsewhere have clearly demonstrated XtendiMax is far more drift-prone than Monsanto claimed.

"EPA approved XtendiMax based entirely on Monsanto's junk science, rejecting a mountain of evidence from scientists, farmers, and civil society groups warning of precisely the devastating drift injury that has come to pass," said Freese."The Agency should reject Monsanto's petition for XtendiMax use on GMO corn, and rescind the approvals for its use on GMO soybeans and cotton."