Dicamba Herbicide Wreaks Havoc Across the US
While the chemical technology industry, led by Monsanto, claimed genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant crops would reduce the need for herbicides, usage has steadily and significantly risen since the advent of GE seeds. What’s worse, the rapid emergence of chemical-resistant superweeds has led to the development and use of even more toxic herbicides.
This includes 2,4-D and dicamba, both of which have been clearly linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma,1 a type of blood cancer originating in your lymphatic system. Lymphoma is the No. 1 cancer in the U.K.2 In the U.S., lymphoma accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers, affecting an estimated 72,200 Americans each year.3
Other documented health hazards associated with phenoxy herbicides such as dicamba include developmental and reproductive problems. This is particularly chilling considering the fact that use of these herbicides has risen several-fold since the early 2000s, and their use is now seeing a rapid increase as dicamba-tolerant crops are replacing glyphosate-resistant varieties.
Dicamba has also been implicated in canine malignant lymphoma, raising the risk by as much as 70 percent in some dogs following exposure. Another study4 found that dogs exposed to garden and lawn chemicals such as 2,4-D, dicamba and 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropionic acid, have higher incidence of bladder cancer.
Breeds with a genetic predisposition for bladder cancer, including Beagles, certain Terrier breeds and Shetland Sheepdogs are at particularly high risk. The video above, which features a news report from last year, reports on a case where both the family dog and the husband died from lymphoma after using Roundup around their home.
Newer Pesticides Are Getting Increasingly Toxic
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also approved more than 100 different pesticide formulations to address growing weed resistance, the synergistic effect of which make them more poisonous.5 Synergy happens when two or more compounds combine to create an effect that is larger than the sum of their parts.
In this case, combining two chemicals increases the toxic effect compared to using each chemical in isolation. These are often called pesticide cocktails. In the past, the EPA has claimed it could not assess the potential synergistic effect of the chemicals without data. However, in late 2015, the EPA discovered synergistic chemical reactions were recorded in patent applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Database. Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch:6
"It's alarming to see just how common it's been for the EPA to ignore how these chemical mixtures might endanger the health of our environment. It's pretty clear that chemical companies knew about these potential dangers, but the EPA never bothered to demand this information from them or dig a little deeper to find it for themselves."
Dicamba Wreaks Unprecedented Havoc
Last year (2016), Monsanto released Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans — a stacked trait seed engineered to tolerate both Roundup and dicamba. The problem was, the company had not yet received EPA approval for the herbicide designed to go with these new seeds. As a result, farmers who bought the seed took to illegally spraying old dicamba-based herbicides on their crops. The result was devastating for neighboring farms, where crops and plants withered and died.7,8 As reported by Eco Watch last summer:9
“[S]uch activities caused 10 states to report widespread damage on thousands of acres of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans. And [in October, 2016], a dicamba drift dispute between Arkansas farmers resulted in one farmer being shot to death.”
Dicamba is an extremely potent toxin and is not permitted to be used during growing season for this very reason. Older dicamba herbicides were only allowed to be used to kill weeds prior to planting. It could not be used on growing crops. Monsanto’s weed killer, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology10,11 — which goes along with its Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — is made with “chemical technology” said to make the dicamba less prone to vaporization and drift.
Monsanto was sharply criticized for releasing dicamba-resistant seeds before receiving approval for the less drift-prone herbicide, but the company simply blamed the off-target damage on the farmers, taking no responsibility for the catch-22 they’d created.
Now that XtendiMax with VaporGrip herbicide is available, real-world effects suggest the chemical technology supposed to make this herbicide safe to use falls far short of expectations. In fact, the current growing season is turning out to be just as bad for neighbors to those using XtendiMax with VaporGrip as last year, when illegal dicamba formulations were used.
Chemical Giant Refused to Study Vaporization and Drift Potential
Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee are presently investigating more than 2,000 reports of dicamba damage.12 As of August 10, 2017, an estimated 3.1 million acres across the eastern half of the United States have been damaged by dicamba drift.13 As reported by Reuters:14
“As the U.S. growing season entered its peak this summer, farmers began posting startling pictures on social media: fields of beans, peach orchards and vegetable gardens withering away. The photographs served as early warnings of a crisis that has damaged millions of acres of farmland.
New versions of the herbicide dicamba developed by Monsanto and BASF, according to farmers, have drifted across fields to crops unable to withstand it …
As the crisis intensifies, new details provided to Reuters by independent researchers and regulators, and previously unreported testimony by a company employee, demonstrate the unusual way Monsanto introduced its product. The approach, in which Monsanto prevented key independent testing of its product, went unchallenged by the [EPA] and nearly every state regulator.”
Normally, when a new pesticide is developed, the company will commission tests that are then shared with regulators. Samples of the chemical are also shared with universities for analysis and testing. Together, regulators and researchers then assess the product’s safety and effectiveness.
In this case, Monsanto strictly forbid university researchers to test XtendiMax with VaporGrip for its vaporization and drift potential (volatility testing)15 — a crucial feature of the new herbicide. Jason Norsworthy, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, told Reuters, “This is the first time I’m aware of any herbicide ever brought to market for which there were strict guidelines on what you could and could not do.”
Company Feared Test Results Might Jeopardize Approval According to Reuters:16
“Monsanto's Vice President of Global Strategy, Scott Partridge, said the company prevented the testing because it was unnecessary. He said the company believed the product was less volatile than a previous dicamba formula that researchers found could be used safely. ‘To get meaningful data takes a long, long time,’ he said. ‘This product needed to get into the hands of growers.’"
However, summary notes from an Arkansas legislature's joint budget committee meeting, in which Monsanto employee Boyd Carey explained the company’s rationale for refusing volatility, paints a very different picture. According to these notes, "Boyd Carey is on record on August 8 stating that the University of Arkansas nor any other university was given the opportunity to test VaporGrip in fear that the results may jeopardize the federal label."
In September 2016, the EPA approved XtendiMax with VaporGrip based on the data supplied by Monsanto, which apparently included some data on volatility. Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto, has issued a statement saying, “"We firmly believe that our product if applied according to the instructions on the label will not move off target and damage anyone." And therein lies the problem.
XtendiMax Is Nearly Impossible to Apply Safely
To properly apply XtendiMax with VaporGrip, you can only spray while wind speeds are between 3 and 10 miles per hour. The reason for the bottom wind speed is that when air is very still, it can signal a temperature inversion,17 which acts much like a lid. Pollutants are easily trapped below the inversion, where they can build up. Since on any given day, from one hour to the next, wind speeds will vary, proper application becomes nearly impossible.
Some university scientists have also noted that even if you manage to comply with these stringent application rules, the volatility of dicamba may still be an issue. According to Aaron Hager, associate professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois,18 “Soy is sensitive to very small amounts of dicamba.
It is an amount like the spray when you open a can of Coke — but spread over an acre.” In light of that, it’s hard to see how farmers growing dicamba-resistant crops could possibly avoid damaging other farms, not to mention other plant life and nearby forests.
Indeed, according to extension weed specialist Larry Steckel, many farmers complain they “can’t keep dicamba in the field” no matter how hard they try to follow the application rules.19 He also notes that temperature inversions “occur most days in Tennessee during June and July,” which alone makes it next to impossible to avoid off-target damage.
The irony of the situation is that many farmers may resort to growing dicamba-resistant crops just to avoid having their harvest destroyed by other growers, thus rewarding Monsanto for its ill deeds. According to previous estimates, the approval of dicamba-resistant cotton and soy is expected to increase dicamba sales from less than 1 million pounds to more than 25 million pounds annually!20 If growers start switching to dicamba-resistant seed just to protect themselves, that number might go even higher.
Chemical Giant Sinks Deeper Into Scandal
That said, a number of critical news reports suggest the tide is turning against Monsanto. For example, documents have emerged showing Monsanto was instrumental in getting a damaging GE paper retracted.21 The study in question was a lifetime feeding study, which found GE corn caused massive tumors, organ damage and early death.
Another cache of internal documents posted online in a searchable database reveals Monsanto continued selling PCBs for eight years after the company found out the chemicals posed a serious threat to human health and the environment. 22 Similarly, email correspondence reveals Monsanto executives are well aware that there are safety concerns with Roundup and its main ingredient, glyphosate, and have known this for over 15 years.23
Some of the released emails show Monsanto has not properly tested its Roundup formulation, and that company officials are in fact terrified of doing so, for fear of what might be found. The Wall Street Journal also recently reported on Monsanto’s strategy to defend its toxic products by enlisting scientists to act in the company’s defense.24
Academics and journalists are also used to present corporate propaganda to the public. For example, documents posted online by the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman25 again exposed Henry Miller as a Monsanto mouthpiece.26
The evidence shows Miller published an article in Forbes Magazine under his name that was actually written by Monsanto employees. Forbes fired him and removed all of his work from the magazine’s website, but there are still plenty of other industry shills spreading corporate propaganda under the guise of academic expertise or independent journalism, both at Forbes and other major magazines and papers.
Another Industry Shill Exposed
A recent front-page series27 in the French newspaper Le Monde reviews Monsanto’s attacks on science and its strong-arm tactics against the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, after it declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. Aiding the company’s war on science is London-based Reuters reporter Kate Kelland who, according to FAIR’s Stacy Malkan:28
“… has aimed a torrent of critical reporting at the … IARC, portraying the group and its scientists as out of touch and unethical … [I]n writing about the IARC decision, Kelland has ignored much of the published research backing the classification, and focused on industry talking points and criticisms of the scientists in seeking to diminish their analysis.
Her reporting has relied heavily on pro-industry sources, while failing to disclose their industry connections; contained errors that Reuters has refused to correct; and presented cherry-picked information out of context from documents she did not provide to her readers.
Raising further questions about her objectivity as a science reporter are Kelland’s ties to the Science Media Centre (SMC), a controversial nonprofit PR agency in the UK that connects scientists with reporters, and gets its largest block of funding from industry groups and companies, including chemical industry interests.”
Other Industry Shills Best Ignored
Other outed industry puppets include Forbes contributor Kavin Senapathy;29 Steven Salzberg;30 Bruce Chassy, Jon Entine,31,32 Kevin Folta and Keith Kloor.33 And then there’s the industry front groups,34 which specialize in organized astroturfing on a wider scale.
Among them: The Genetic Literacy Project and the American Council for Science and Health — both of which are clandestinely funded by Monsanto35 — Science 2.0, GMO Answers, Independent Women’s Forum, Science Codex, Center for Consumer Freedom and the Center for Inquiry. Once you start to investigate these front groups, you’ll find the same names appearing again and again, co-writing articles, interviewing each other and referring to each other’s work back and forth.
All in all, recent revelations present a clear picture of Monsanto as a company that peddles some of the most toxic products on the market and hides the truth from the world until it’s forced out through the legal discovery process; a company that hires academics, scientists and journalists, and hides their connections and financial ties.
1 Int J Environ Res Public Health 2014 Apr 23;11(4):4449-527
2 Cancer Research UK
3 Cancer.org Statistics
4 Science of the Total Environment, July 2013, pp 456-457
5, 6 EcoWatch July 20, 2016
7 Thedepauw.com November 9, 2016
8 NWADG.com July 26, 2016
9, 20 Eco Watch November 10, 2016
10 St.Louis Post-Dispatch November 9, 2016
11 Reuters November 9, 2016
12, 18 C & EN August 21, 2017
13 University of Missouri August 14, 2017
14, 16 Reuters August 9, 2017
15 St. Louis Business Journal August 9, 2017
17 Weather Questions, Temperature Inversion
19 Institute of Agriculture July 18, 2017
21 Retraction Watch, Monsanto Connected to Campaign to Retract GMO Paper
22 The Guardian August 10, 2017
23 New York Times August 1, 2017
24 Wall Street Journal August 3, 2017
25 Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, Monsanto Secret Documents
26 EcoWatch August 3, 2017
27 Le Monde June 1, 2017
28 FAIR July 24, 2017
29 Forbes November 3, 2016
30 Forbes.com, Steven Salzberg Bio
31, 35 Progressive July 21, 2017
32 Forbes March 10, 2014
33 Huffington Post July 19, 2017
34 A Medium Corporation November 9, 2016
36 EWG Skin Deep Database