by Christina Sarich
Arkansas — The United States Environmental Protection Agency just ignored a legal requirement to examine any threat to endangered species by approving another toxic herbicide this last week. Dicamba will now follow the trajectory of toxic chemical herbicides and pesticides which came before, such as glyphosate, and atrazine, forcing our most fragile creatures to the precipice of their demise.
Dicamba is not a new herbicide — it has been around for years. Brand names for formulations of this herbicide include Banvel, Diablo, Oracle, and Vanquish. A selective herbicide in the chlorophenoxy family of chemicals, dicamba can be found in nearly 1,100 items sold in the U.S. as agricultural and gardening products; however, the EPA’s latest decision allows the herbicide to be sprayed directly on genetically modified corn and soy, meaning it will likely be used across 1 million to 25 million pounds of just these two agricultural crops annually.
Many suggest that if dicamba herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans were not approved, farmers would be relegated to using older, more dangerous versions; but there is no sound basis in this argument considering all of these chemicals should be removed from our environment, regardless of their specific means of damaging human health and the ecosystem.
Moreover, dicamba is part of Monsanto’s two-point plan: replace glyphosate (the main ingredient in the company’s best-selling RoundUp weed killer), as it increasingly comes under fire, and create public acceptance of the GM crops engineered to withstand dicamba.
Monsanto’s own conservative estimates predict that dicamba use on soybeans will likely rise from around 233,000 pounds per year to 20.5 million pounds per year — and dicamba use on cotton could go from 364,000 pounds per year to 5.2 million pounds per year.
There are numerous scientific studies which suggest that the coming onslaught of dicamba could be significantly troubling for creatures both large and small. The lady beetle, Coleomegilla maculate, is an important beneficial insect in cropland that is commonly used as an indicator species in safety evaluations of herbicides; and lady beetles were recently decimated in crops that were sprayed with dicamba.
In another study, adult agricultural workers were found to have a significant increase in risk for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and lung cancer, when exposed to dicamba.
Dicamba, along with other harmful herbicides, have also been known to damage cells. If those cells are reproductive in nature, lowered sperm count, infertility, a higher risk of miscarriage, and birth defects can ensue. There are numerous studies that have proven dicamba and other chlorophenoxy chemicals contribute to lowered fertility and altered hormones in both animals and humans.
Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, states,
“Once again the EPA is allowing for staggering increases in pesticide use that will undoubtedly harm our nation’s most imperiled plants and animals. Iconic species like endangered whooping cranes are known to visit soybean fields, and now they’d be exposed to this toxic herbicide at levels they’ve never seen before.”
With the many health risks clearly outlined for dicamba, the EPA’s decision to allow mass-spraying on thousands of acres of cropland in the US is doubly dubious, since the Midwest just experienced massive pesticide drift which contaminated nearby crops and caused immense damage to both genetically modified and non-GMO crops alike. Dicamba was formulated to reduce drift, but this clearly has not been the case for many farmers in the U.S.
In one case, dicamba drift was the cause of an alleged murder of one farmer by another. Allegedly, a farmer on the Missouri-Arkansas border applied dicamba without a permit and caused significant damage to a neighboring farmer’s soy crop. An argument bubbled over, which led the shooting death of one farmer, and the arrest of the other.
And it isn’t just farmers who are being murdered over dicamba use.
The EPA’s own analysis also indicates that some threatened and endangered species — including birds and mammals — may be harmed by the massive increase in herbicide use. Sadly, the agency has not yet complied with its obligation to consider impacts to these species under the Endangered Species Act. Dicamba gets a green light, but how many creatures must be harmed before our government agencies stop giving pesticides a free pass?
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