Monsanto’s Dicamba herbicide is turning the fields of Eastern Arkansas into a battleground, pitting farmer against farmer and creating a giant toxic problem for anyone downwind of the weed-killer spray.
These Arkansas agri-battles are the newest farming fiasco stirred up by Monsanto, the Bayer-owner manufacturer of other notorious herbicides such as Roundup, Ranger Pro, and Agent Orange.
Last year, Monsanto introduced new varieties of soybean and cotton that it had genetically modified to resist dicamba and pedaled these latest GMO crops to Arkansas farmers as a cheap and easy way to grow soybeans.
Monsanto created this new line of herbicide-resistant crops because weeds are becoming resistant to its heavily used Roundup spray, which has been sprayed on a multitude of genetically modified Roundup-resistant crops for 20 years.
Some of the farmers bought into Monsanto’s dicamba scheme and planted the dicamba-resistant soybean seeds. As the seeds grew, the farmers sprayed the crops with tons of dicamba, which killed virtually everything green except for the resistant soybeans.
But the spray also drifted into neighboring fields and heavily damaged millions of acres of conventional non-resistant soybean crops owned by farmers who chose not to deal with Monsanto or its products.
Drifts of Monsanto’s dicamba are also harming trees in forests, neighbors’ yards, and even the prized 200-year-old cypress trees in a neighboring state. No one quite knows the extent of the flora harmed by dicamba spray, but it was enough to prompt Arkansas regulators to ban the use of the herbicide statewide from April 15 to Oct. 31 each year – the entire growing season.
Several farmers, however, defied state orders and continued to spray dicamba this year, once again causing collateral damage to the crops of other farmers. Now those fields and neighboring fields have become a crime scene where state and federal authorities are collecting samples of damaged plants and testing farm equipment for dicamba residue in an effort to find the offenders.
Farmers caught using dicamba face fines of $1,000 at the very least and up to $25,000 per violation. Some farmers interviewed by NPR said they have no intention of stopping their use of dicamba because they can yield a bigger harvest and it’s cheaper to pay the fines than to kill weeds in more conventional ways.
This attitude frustrates farmers who don’t use dicamba because they are the ones dealt a serious blow by the law-breaking farmers.
“Personally, I don’t believe in spraying dicamba. I think it’s too dangerous to spray,” one farmer told NPR. “I mean, anybody that says otherwise is dreaming.” He added that anyone who says using safer, conventional herbicides can’t be done is spouting a myth.
The farmer told NPR he doesn’t know which neighbor broke the law, but suggested he would take legal action to stop them. “Do I go out and witch-hunt people, and find — I’m not doing that,” he said with “intense frustration in his voice,” according to NPR. “But I have a legal right as a farmer to keep a crop that is not damaged by somebody else’s spray.”