Big win for farmers affected by pesticide drift
The Arkansas State Plant Board has unanimously voted to ban the pesticide dicamba for the 2018 planting season. The decision was based on advice from a task force composed of scientists, farmers, and other experts. Arkansas came to the decision after a year of record crop losses caused by dicamba — during 2017, the state received more pesticide complaints than it ever has in one year.
Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Toxics Director stated, “This is a big win for farmers affected by pesticide drift. We need to stop using unnecessary pesticides that poison our crops, fields, and possibly our health.”
Dicamba is an herbicide used for weed control in soybeans and cotton crops. Monsanto introduced the use of the genetically modified dicamba-resistant seeds in 2016. Using these seeds, a farmer can spray the weed-killer directly onto the crop — killing the weeds but not the soybean plant. Dicamba-Ready crops, already in use and on the market, did not go through the regular independent testing procedures, and their approval went unchallenged by the EPA and many state regulators. After Dicamba-Ready seeds hit the market, the use of dicamba skyrocketed.
Immediately after approval, farmers began reporting total crop loss from drifting dicamba. Last year in Arkansas, of the one million acres of dicamba ready soybeans planted, 200,000 acres of the crops were damaged. Since mid-July, at least 2.5 million acres have been damaged in the U.S. Researchers in Arkansas have discovered that dicamba attaches to dust in the air, allowing the weedkiller to travel 220 feet from where it is sprayed--double the distance that the EPA requires farmers to use as a buffer zone to protect neighboring farms from dicamba drift.
Dicamba’s wide drift pattern is also a public health concern. Dicamba is a possible carcinogen, and is associated with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, reproductive problems, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat.
If the state legislative council approves the ban, it will go into effect on April 16, 2018. A 30-day public comment period will be held before the legislature takes a vote. Any farmer or person affected by dicamba should make their comments to the Arkansas Plant Board before November 8, 2017.
Monsanto has already objected to the ban, and is expected to continue objecting to Arkansas’ decision. U.S. PIRG and other groups plan to defend this ban and support other states who enact similar bans.
U.S. PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.