As weeds evolved to resist Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup (glyphosate), Monsanto released a new weed-killer called dicamba and started selling genetically-modified (GMO) soybeans that were engineered to survive being spraying by dicamba and glyphosate.
Dicamba has been around for decades, but before Monsanto released the GMO soybeans, dicamba was only sprayed on bare soil to control weeds in between crop rotations. After Monsanto released the GMO soybeans, farmers started spraying dicamba on growing croplands.
The problem is that dicamba evaporates very quickly into the air and drifts away from where it was sprayed. This “dicamba drift” problem has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of crop damage in the U.S. to farmers who did not plant Monsanto’s GMO soybeans.
Reuters reports that some states have received 4 years’ worth of crop damage complaints in a single season due to dicamba. The worst-hit states are Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Tennessee.
As of October 15, states launched 2,708 investigations into dicamba-related crop damage. Missouri farmers filed around 310 complaints about dicamba damage this year, which is roughly quadruple the total number of complaints the state typically receives for all pesticides.
According to Paul Bailey of the Missouri Department of Agriculture:
We don’t have the staff to be able to handle 400 investigations in a year plus do all the other required work.”
The hardest-hit state is Arkansas, with 985 complaints of dicamba crop damage out of a total of about 1,200 complaints for all pesticides.
The state of Illinois has received about 245 dicamba complaints, bringing the total this year to 421 pesticide and herbicide complaints — the most complaints Illinois has received since 1989.
Farmers in Iowa have filed 270 total pesticide and herbicide complaints, including about 120 complaints due to dicamba. The number of dicamba complaints also doubled since last year.
Monsanto and BASF are facing a growing number of dicamba lawsuits. In August 2017, a class action lawsuit was filed by farmers who accuse Monsanto of concealing information from regulatory officials about the risk of “dicamba drift” and marketing their dicamba-tolerant GMO soybeans without approval from regulators.
Lawyers also claim Monsanto knew the use of dicamba would endanger neighboring crops. “Dicamba drift” may actually be boosting Monsanto’s profits and spreading the adoption of its seeds. Farmers who don’t want to see their crops damaged by “dicamba drift” are forced to buy Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant GMO soybean seeds.