A Little Dose of Agricultural Aggravation

So a few days ago there was an article in the New York Times about problems caused by the herbicide Dicamba.

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No doubt you’re aware that for some years farmers have been spraying Roundup (Glyphosate) on crops that have been genetically engineered to tolerate that particular herbicide. Problem is, now the weeds themselves have also become Roundup tolerant.

But have no fear. Monsanto, DuPont, and BASF are now marketing soybean and cotton seeds that are resistant to another herbicide, Dicamba. The possibility that weeds could develop a tolerance for Dicamba, as they did for Roundup, doesn’t seem to worry the good folks at Monsanto, etc.

pesticide 1

Problem is, Dicamba has an unfortunate tendency to drift beyond the area where it’s been sprayed. A researcher from the University of Missouri has found 2,708 complaints in 25 states about damage done by drifting Dicamba to crops, shrubs, trees, and residential gardens. In some instances state parks and nature preserves have also been affected.

In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced new instructions for spraying Dicamba – for example, no spraying if the wind is blowing at more than 10 miles per hour. I admit that my knowledge on this subject is pretty limited, but this rule sounds more than a little pointless. For starters, how on earth would it be enforced?

Anyway, to me this whole situation seems fundamentally wrong-headed. If you want to know more, read the whole article.

That’s all for now.

32 Comments on “A Little Dose of Agricultural Aggravation

  1. I’ve heard a couple of stories on NPR about Dicamba. Honestly, we never seem to learn! Thanks for this and for the link.

  2. I can’t add anything more wise and thoughtful than the comments others have added. It is all so very sad. When money-hungry people forge ahead despite scientific warnings, what could possibly go wrong?

  3. I don’t treat my lawn but my neighbors do theirs, so my lawn is edged by two weed- and clover-free strips. That is herbicide drift on a tiny scale, imagine what it is like in the world of agribiz.

  4. It’s obvious that Monsanto and the like have the Environmental Protection Agency in their back pocket, so to speak. The short sighted attitude is just infuriating – I wonder how many Monsanto executives opt to eat organic, non-GMO food and would stay well clear of farms being sprayed (much less choose to live beside one)…likely most of them, I’m thinking.

  5. I think the recommendation for roundup was to alternate with regular herbicides in order to avoid resistance…. but that was ignored and now more and more weeds are fighting back. Not unlike antibiotics, doctors got lazy and kept prescribing them for whatever… now the bacteria are fighting back. You can’t hold evolution back I guess.

  6. Hello Jason, the “arms race” between herbicides and resistant weeds seems very similar to that of antibiotics and bacteria. Once side has all the time and resources in the world (literally) and any number of failures is fine, the other side does not and only needs a single failure to have lost the game. I do wonder what the end-point of this is supposed to be, or perhaps it hasn’t been thought out that far ahead yet?

    • That’s an interesting way to put it. I suspect that the agribusinesses aren’t thinking in terms of an end point – just maximizing shareholder equity for the immediate future.

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