State investigating Monsanto weed killer after farmers' complaints

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State investigating Monsanto weed killer after farmers' complaints
By Mark Steil
MPRnews | July 20th, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is investigating about two dozen complaints from farmers about the weed killer dicamba.

Dicamba is used on soybean fields that have been genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide. But Minnesota farmers have joined hundreds in the southern U.S. who allege that drifting dicamba hurts non-resistant fields.

Tim Carlblom said he has seen distinctive dicamba damage on soybean plants in his fields near the southern Minnesota town of Jeffers.

"You see how these are cupped, and the new ones coming out are severely cupped," Carlbom said, showing damage to his plants. "They'll grow out of it somewhat, but that's still damaged."

His soybeans are also genetically modified, but not for dicamba. Carlbom believes the weed killer drifted on to his soybeans after neighbors sprayed the herbicide on their dicamba-resistant soybeans. He's worried it could hurt the fall harvest.

There are lots of unknowns in the dicamba issue including concrete proof of how widespread the problem is and who is to blame.

Based on talks he had with farmers using the product, Carlblom believes they're spraying dicamba correctly and avoiding windy conditions. He blames the product itself.

"Allegedly, the herbicide that was put on drifted when it shouldn't have," Carlblom said.

That's the same type of complaint hundreds of farmers across the U.S. made after experiencing what they believe to be dicamba damage. The problem is most widespread in the South. Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee have taken steps to restrict or even halt dicamba use.

Affected farmers often blame Monsanto, one of the nation's largest agribusiness corporations which brought dicamba-resistant soybeans to the market.

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Photo from Flickr.