Note to Readers: Steve Smith, Chairman and founder of the Save Our Crops Coalition and R+D Director of Red Gold (a major midwest tomato processor), has been actively engaged in the evolution and approval of dicamba-resistant crops. He has raised concern — and more recently alarm — over the damage done to non-target crops, trees, shrubs, and vines in areas heavily sprayed with dicamba.
In a September 30th guest blog, we shared Steve’s “closing arguments” to EPA regarding why the agency should significantly limit further, post-emergence use of dicamba.
Here, Steve shares his reactions to the October 31, 2018 EPA decision to extend Extendimax and other post-emergence dicamba labels for use on GE crops, lightly edited for clarity.
Our Dicamba Watch presentation provides further details to help readers catch up on the developments leading to the current EPA decision.
Just in case anyone asks or is curious, here are my comments to the press this morning.
It is a very easy assessment. This is an unacceptable ruling. It continues to focus on the applicator (only certified applicators) and more training, instead of the real problem, which is the chemistry itself.
Dicamba is dicamba and as of now, it moves where it is not supposed to go. It doesn’t move every time, but what if even only 3% or 5% of the applications have issues? Would you get on an airplane with a 3% chance of a failure?
EPA could have easily done a one year registration to see how the 2019 crop season turns out. Agriculture in general is facing unprecedented scrutiny about all herbicide applications, and having a “bad actor” out there like dicamba is going to do nothing but inflame public sentiment about crop-protectant materials to an even greater degree than already the case.
When the general public, and especially rural residents, start to realize and understand why trees and landscapes are being injured, we can expect even more intense scrutiny. Ironically, my own home was hit with over $9,000 of dicamba-induced damage done to my trees.
EPA’s two-year extension of the conditional registration will fail to protect the public — and farmers. Dr. Ford Baldwin put it best. “We know we can raise soybeans without dicamba, but we can’t raise other crops with dicamba.”
–Dr. Ford Baldwin, Arkansas Extension Service (retired)
The long-term ramifications of this product and technology, and this EPA decision, will be serious and extensive. I predict we will look back on this decision as a consequential, missed opportunity, when EPA could have started the process of putting this crazed genie back in her bottle.
Dicamba will eventually not be used. I was hoping for regulatory relief beginning in the 2019 crop season, but now we move forward with no meaningful changes and new, unclear economic rules of the road. Will applicators typically be held responsible for drift and damage, because the companies and the EPA say drift and damage won’t happen if applicators follow the new and “improved” label?
If applicators are willing to take on the liability risk inherent in every application, the spread of weeds resistant to dicamba will eventually curtail use, but not until considerable damage is done to innocent farmers and landowners, and to agriculture’s reputation.
This is very disappointing. The Save Our Crops Coalition is advocating for a pre-plant only label. This wouldn’t have totally stopped all the issues (see Arkansas in 2018), as some trees, orchards and vineyards would have already been leafed out, but it would have gone a long ways towards reducing the problems to a more manageable level.
On a field sprayed with dicamba in 2018, for example, we are also advocating for a subsequent restriction in 2019 on additional dicamba applications. This is a commonsense option to help slow the spread of resistance to dicamba, which is bound to happen if the product is used on both corn and soybeans year-after-year. And then what?
Steve Smith, email to members of the Save Our Crops Coalition, November 1, 2018.
I believe that the EPA has always endeavored to make sincere efforts for protecting the population from a hostile environment. However, in the case of the new 2019 regulations concerning the use of Dicamba, I detect some “flaws”. In the past, if an agriculture product was proven to be hazardous, it was “pulled” from the market.
Case in point: several years ago, arsenic acid was pulled from the market as a cotton defoliant because of the arsenic in its chemistry. There was no extensive and expensive training necessary to allow it to remain on the market, since the chemistry was dangerous.
I would like to compare that to the “new” extensive and expensive training of the use of Dicamba for the upcoming 2019 growing season. Training in this case does not change the chemistry of the product. It would be like your mechanic telling you, “I can’t fix your breaks, but I can make your horn louder.”
Eugene, historically, the EPA regulates pesticides to mitigate risks not impacting public (human) health by tweaking label directions and precautions, but rarely cancels the use of a pesticide because of damage to birds/bees/fish, or in the case of volatile herbicides like dicamba, drift and crop damage. EPA has banned several arsenical pesticides because they lead to the build up of arsenic levels in soil, and then also the crops harvested from those soils, thereby imposing a human health risk. Given EPA’s recent decisions re extending the registration of dicamba, don’t expect any meaningful action by the agency to curtail dicamba or 2,4-D volatilization and drift, because the only “risk” and damage the agency is focused on is “just” to plants/trees/shrubs. But perhaps in the next few years, renewed focus on herbicide use>>prenatal exposures>>reproductive problems and birth defects, in humans, will change the dynamic.