As Arkansas Prepares to Ban Dicamba, Monsanto Pushes Back, Claiming Scientific Evidence is “Tainted”

Last week, the Arkansas Plant Board Pesticide Committee took a major step toward restricting use of dicamba, adopting a recommendation that the herbicide be banned early next year. Although such a ban would be temporary and still requires a vote from the full board as well as approval from the state lawmakers and the governor, Monsanto is already gearing up to fight any proposal that would put a dent in company profits.

If approved, a ban on dicamba spraying would be imposed starting January 1st of next year and remain in force until April 15th. Shawn Peebles, an organic farmer who serves on the Arkansas Dicamba Task Force, notes that the ban would only be in effect long enough to allow for more testing of the product.

In an interview with a local news agency, Peebles said, “We didn’t recommend a ban forever, but a ban for the 2018 crop to perform more testing. We expect to see more university testing next year.” It is expected that results of such testing will help in determining what actions to take going forward – which could include a permanent ban on dicamba spraying.

Meanwhile, Monsanto, a major producer and seller of dicamba, is already pushing back. Calling the proposed ban a “step in the wrong direction,” Monsanto executive Scott Partridge said, “We saw 25 million acres of dicamba tolerant crops that show dicamba can be used safely and effectively…Arkansas ought to focus on existing science, experience from other states and industry research and education.” The company has already filed a petition with the Board opposing the recommendation.

In a letter to Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, criticized the science behind the proposed ban, writing, “The Task Force’s recommendation of a complete ban is predicated on unsubstantiated product volatility theories that are not supported by empirical or modeled data, but are contradicted by actual scientific data the Task Force failed to consider.” Fraley also claimed that the recommendation was “tainted” because one member of the board is involved in a dicamba lawsuit and another endorses a competing product.

Should Monsanto’s petition fall on deaf ears in Little Rock, to agribusiness giant is gearing up for a legal battle to protect its sales.

Monsanto may be in for an uphill fight. As reports of dicamba damage have been coming in from states across the nation’s farm belt, neighboring Tennessee and Missouri
have been issuing their own restrictions on the sale and use of dicamba-based herbicides. The state of Kansas is also investigating claims of crop damage due to dicamba drift. Even the EPA, noting a rising number of complaints from farmers, is considering issuing its own restrictions and possible ban on dicamba.

Further restrictions on dicamba will not only affect sales of the herbicide, it could very well have a dampening effect on sales of GMO soybean and cotton seeds, which have been engineered to tolerate such products.