This miracle weed killer was supposed to save farms. Instead, it’s devastating them.
The #dicamba system, approved for use for the first time this spring, was supposed to break the cycle and guarantee weed control in soybeans and cotton. The herbicide — used in combination with a genetically modified dicamba-resistant soybean — promises better control of unwanted plants such as pigweed, which has become resistant to common weed killers.
The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster. Critics say that the herbicide was approved by federal officials without enough data, particularly on the critical question of whether it could drift off target.
Dicamba came under scrutiny due to its tendency to vaporize from treated fields and spread to neighboring crops. Monsanto began offering crops resistant to dicamba before a reformulated and drift resistant herbicide, which they claimed would be less likely to affect neighboring fields, had gained approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. Incidents in which dicamba affected neighboring fields led to complaints from farmers and fines in some US states.[A] A lower volatility formulation, M1768, was approved by the EPA in November 2016. However, this formulation has not been evaluated by experts outside of Monsanto.