Dicamba has been used by farmers for decades, but the release of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — genetically engineered (GE) plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba — prompted its use to become more widespread, as well as used in a different way, now sprayed over the top of the GE cotton and soy, where it could easily volatilize and drift onto nearby fields.

Monsanto sold dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before the herbicide designed to go with them (which is supposedly less prone to drifting) had gotten federal approval. In 2016, when farmers sprayed their new GE crops with older, illegal formulas of dicamba, and it drifted over onto their neighbors’ non-dicamba-resistant crops, devastating crop damage was reported in 10 states

Newer dicamba formulations are supposedly less prone to drifting, but this hasn’t stopped the onslaught of reports of dicamba damage. As of August 2017, an estimated 3.1 million acres across the eastern half of the United States had been damaged by dicamba drift,3and there’s also disturbing information that the chemical is harming trees.

Monsanto has blamed crop damage on misapplication and has attempted to skirt the blame for oak-tree damage by blaming other pesticides, according to internal company emails.

Arkansas grower Tom Burnham reported to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he estimates about half of the region’s dicamba-resistant crops were planted solely by farmers hoping to prevent the damage they suffered last year among their nonresistant crops. In a letter to the state plant board, he continued, “I feel that the need to plant a technology to protect your crop from off-target movement is tantamount to extortion.”

With increasing numbers of farmers adopting dicamba-resistant crops, there is concern that it could seriously impact bees and other pollinators in the area. 

Richard Coy, whose family-run company manages 13,000 beehives in Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri, has noticed that dicamba drift has stopped vegetation from blooming, which means bees and other pollinators have access to less pollen. Honey production in regions where dicamba is sprayed is down about one-third.

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