The dicamba conundrum

July 2018

Despite the host of problems presented by the expanded use of dicamba herbicide last year [1], the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cut a deal to allow the chemical's continued application. Monsanto was "very excited" by the EPA's decision.

This excitement isn't surprising because dicamba is vital to the Company's next generation of GM soya. Now that weed resistance to Roundup is rendering Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM soya obsolete, future fortunes are depending on dicamba tolerance technology as a replacement.

Less excited by the news was one Iowa State University Extension forester:

"It's going to be scary. Gone will be all the grapes in the state, because one whiff and they are done. Tomatoes are gone, most of your garden will be gone, our trees will be burned. It's just not good".
Like many US states, Iowa is "a farming state first and everything else is second. And this one is going to be a game-changer."

Some insurance companies are so unenthusiastic about dicamba they're refusing to back up commercial spraying with this herbicide because of the crippling payouts they anticipate.

Health watchdogs such as the Environmental Working Group point out that dicamba carries a proven risk of cancer and nervous system damage, and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Of particular concern is that the EPA's own dietary analysis determined that one- to two-year-old children have the highest exposure to dicamba for their body weight. Despite a 1996 Food Quality law which mandates the application of an additional 10-fold safety factor in permitted chemical levels to protect children, the EPA elected to ignore it. Had the Agency applied this restriction on food contamination, dicamba couldn't have been allowed on the market.

The best answer to the dicamba conundrum that Monsanto has come up with is to sell a dicamba deactivator to farmers to clean their spraying equipment with. This isn't going to help much: only an estimated 3 percent of dicamba damage to non-tolerant plants is caused by residues of the herbicide in multi-use spray tanks.

Iowa University Forestry Extension services don't have an answer, but have created a public website to track the damage in the wake of dicamba use and to provide images of what the herbicide's damage looks like on a variety of trees.


The biotech industry is doing plenty to protect its own interests but nothing realistic to protect its customers. The US regulatory system seems downright dysfunctional. The dicamba damage-tracking website may provide a force for change, but sadly the change may be too slow, especially for the one- to two-year-olds of today destined to become the cancer sufferers of the future.

You're not helpless just because you live on the other side of an ocean from the people affected by dicamba spraying and the latest fad in GM. Sow some seeds of dicamba-intolerance amongst your government representatives: if Europeans reject it, the rest of the world will take note and many countries will follow suit.


[1] THE DICAMBA TSUNAMI - October 2017


  • Julia Meriele, Iowa State Extension forester warns of dicamba dangers, The Hawk Eye Newspaper, 9.10.17 
  • Tom Polansek, Monsanto develops product to deactivate controversial farm chemical, Reuters, 24.04.18 
  • Olga Naidenko, EPA Chief backs Another Pesticide Harmful to Kids, The Environmental Working Group, 30.10.17

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