Monsanto is well known for its promotion and use of Roundup, a weedkiller whose main ingredient is the controversial glyphosate chemical deemed to be a “probable human carcinogen” by a World Health Organization cancer research body in spring 2015.
But few know what’s taking place in soybean and other crop fields across the country, where Monsanto’s latest scandal has involved the widespread destruction of crops across the country and led to new lawsuits in 10 states.
One of those states is Arkansas, where the Monsanto weedkiller in question, dicamba, was recently hit with a ban set to take effective for most of next year’s growing season.
But now, some are crying foul after the ban was stalled in the state’s Legislative Council.
“Monsanto is Buying Their Way Through Arkansas Politics”
According to a report from the Arkansas Times, a Little Rock-based newspaper, the ban was stalled on December 15 after the Legislative Council approved a subcommittee’s recommendation to do so, sending it back to the state’s Plant Board.
The state had initially recommended the ban after 963 complaints were recorded due to dicamba misuse in 26 Arkansas counties, but now it may not happen after all, which proponents of the ban worry could spell big trouble for farmers in the near future.
“As a former dicamba task force member, Arkansas farmer, and member of the USDA SPECIALTY CROP committee who testified at this legislative session: Why is no one questioning the fact the senator Bill Sample kicked this back before the hearing started before any testimony was heard?!?!?” asked Shawn Peebles, an Augusta based farmer who contacted the Times to express his frustration.
Peebles seems to believe that Monsanto lobbying may have played a role in the decision, according to his comments.
“Hell, the man didn’t even have the Plant Board’s recommendation in hand yet,” he said of Sample’s decision. “Just curious. Monsanto is buying their way through Arkansas politics and no one will cover it. When this product is released it will do irreparable damage to Arkansas agriculture.”
The ban had been passed in November by the Board and was set to take place from April 16, 2018 to October 31, 2018 with plans to collect data and revisit for 2019 included. However, as Peebles and other advocates noted, the proposal was blocked before any testimony was heard.
Companies like Monsanto and BASF have a huge stake in the matter and have “actively resisted” the ban according to the report.
Monsanto not only makes dicamba-resistant genetically engineered (GMO) seeds, but also makes its own version of the chemical for sprayings. Monsanto has filed a lawsuit claiming that the April 16 ban date is arbitrary, an assertion that Sample agreed with according to the Times.
Dicmaba is especially vulnerable to spreading during the hottest times of the growing season as is capable of morphing into a cloud of plant-killing vapor that can spread in unexpected directions, leading to crop losses on neighboring farms.
Monsanto says dicamba is not being used correctly but others believe there are systemic problems with the herbicide and the destruction it is causing. The new formulation of this old weed killing chemical system was not made available for testing according to national weed scientists as noted in this article from NPR.
“I wish we could have done more testing. We’ve been asking to do more testing for several years, but the product was not made available to us,” says Bob Scott, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas to NPR. “These are proprietary products. Until they release those formulations for testing, we’re not allowed to [test them].”
The Council is now recommending that the Plant Board re-examine a potential date for instituting a ban.
According to the report Sample also left the building immediately after the motion to stall the ban was approved. Five farmers began testifying, but he was not there to listen; Sample reportedly said he had fallen ill with bronchitis.