Monsanto’s Panicked Farmers Use Illegal Herbicide to Battle Resistant ‘Superweeds’

Monsanto's Panicked Farmers Use Illegal Herbicide to Battle Resistant 'Superweeds'

Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, the genetically modified soybean developed and sold by the St. Louis-based agricultural giant, Monsanto, is at the center of an issue plaguing soy farmers throughout Arkansas and Missouri.

Farmers have filed more than 100 complaints with their state agriculture agencies over the seeds, more specifically, the herbicide dicamba that the seeds were developed to resist.

The controversial weed killer is being used illegally, claim the farmers, as Monsanto began selling it before the Environmental Protection Agency approved its use on the crops. And as the dicamba spraying drifts to neighboring farms, it’s stunting the growth of soybeans.

“Monsanto reportedly sold more than 2 million acres worth of the new seeds, claiming they get rid of weeds and produce higher yields,” reports the Environmental Working Group. But if farmers are using it—and many are as is evident by the drift damaging neighboring farms—it was purchased illegally, a practice that the farmers claim shouldn’t be allowed to happen in the first place.

“Even a small amount of dicamba can cause significant damage to conventional soybeans that haven’t been engineered to resist the herbicide,” EWG explains. “Monsanto says the new glyphosate-dicamba mixture is less likely to drift onto fields growing conventional soybeans. But some farmers who invested in the new seeds are – unwittingly or knowingly – using an older, drift-prone version of dicamba on these new GMOs, which breaks federal pesticide law.”

Monsanto developed the new strain of soybeans to help defend against the growing problem of weed resistance to glyphosate, the company’s best-selling herbicide marketed as Roundup.

Over the last several years, farmers have been battling “superweeds” that quickly developed resistant to glyphosate, forcing the farmers to use higher concentrations of the chemical, or a combination of herbicides, to mitigate the growth of the weeds. But that hasn’t been working well, either.

So, major agrochemical companies including Monsanto, have begun developing seeds resistant to multiple herbicides, often used in tandem.

But, warns the EWG, “Monsanto’s new glyphosate-dicamba cocktail may not work for very long. Although the new GMO soybeans and cotton were engineered to combat superweeds, recent research suggests weeds may evolve to resist dicamba over just three years, creating new varieties of superweeds. It’s a vicious circle, and judging from history, Monsanto and other pesticide companies like Dow will respond by creating more chemical cocktails and crops engineered to withstand them ad infinitum.”

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soy farm image via Shutterstock

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.