EPA proposes dicamba for GE cotton, soybeans

By Stephen Davies

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WASHINGTON, April 1, 2016 - Cotton and soybean growers will have a new herbicide at their disposal if an EPA proposal to approve dicamba on the genetically engineered versions of those crops is approved.

With weeds “becoming increasingly resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides,” the availability of dicamba “will provide an additional tool to reduce the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds,” EPA said.

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The comment period on the proposal ends April 30.

CropLife America called the proposed decision “another critical milestone toward farmers gaining access to new dicamba weed-management tools.”

“Dicamba has a decades-long history of safe and effective use in the U.S. and 25 other countries in corn, wheat, fallow and pasture land, conservation tillage acres, as well as homeowner uses,” CLA said. “Following final approvals, farmers will be able to use dicamba in-crop with soybeans tolerant to dicamba and glyphosate and with cotton tolerant to dicamba, glyphosate and glufosinate.”

The proposal was not welcomed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which has sued to force EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services about the effect of pesticides on endangered species.

“The EPA is allowing for staggering increases in pesticide use that will undoubtedly harm our nation's most imperiled plants and animals,” said Nathan Donley, a CBD scientist. “Iconic species like endangered whooping cranes are known to visit soybean fields, for instance, and now they'd be exposed to this toxic herbicide at levels they've never seen before.”

In an online Q&A, EPA said flatly, “When used according to label directions, dicamba is safe for everyone, including infants, the developing fetus, the elderly and more highly exposed groups such as agricultural workers.” In addition, “use of dicamba will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including endangered species.”

EPA's own analysis of the benefits of using dicamba on cotton and soybeans sounded a cautionary note, saying that “the widespread adoption of dicamba-resistant crops will increase the population of weeds exposed to dicamba during the growing season and the possibility, therefore, that selection pressure could increase the incidence of dicamba-resistant weeds. This could continue the unfortunate cycle of a new herbicide use soon followed by resistance to that herbicide.”

But the same analysis says, “Until now, the use of dicamba has not resulted in substantial resistance among weed species, although dicamba-resistant Kochia populations have been identified in some areas of the U.S. and, overall, Kochia has been a problem weed on millions of acres of soybean and cotton.”

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EPA's proposal “outlines a Herbicide Resistance Management plan to ensure that use of dicamba on GE cotton and soybeans successfully manages weed resistance problems,” the agency said.

EPA has proposed a “time-limited registration” for the new uses. After five years, “EPA can work to address any unexpected weed resistance issues that may result from the proposed uses before granting an extension or allow the registration to terminate if necessary.”

 

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