The Dangers of Dicamba

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“What’s that made of, Mom?”

My two-year-old son has this adorable little habit of asking me that question about almost everything I put in my cart at the grocery store. I always try to name a few key ingredients for him, but as I push our basket through the grocery store, it occurs to me that a lot of the time, I don’t have an answer for him.

I honestly have no idea what most of these foods and other products are made with.

I do my best to buy my family good and wholesome foods that aren’t genetically modified. I’m not saying I never do it; living in a Canadian climate with several different seasons makes price and availability a major factor. But even if I am being conscious of buying non-GMO foods, their very existence is being put in jeopardy by something called the “Dicamba Drift.”

Monsanto is at the center of the controversy.

The agribusiness giant has supplied 26 million acres of farm field in the United States with genetically modified seeds so that its weed killer dicamba can be sprayed on the crops without ruining them. Monsanto says thanks to its product, farmers are growing healthier crops because there are fewer weeds choking them of sufficient water, nutrients, and sunlight. It hopes to distribute the seeds to over 40 million acres next year.

cotton field dicamba

The heart of the problem lies with cotton and soybean farmers who have chosen not to plant genetically modified seeds. Many are alleging their organic and natural crops have been damaged or destroyed after dicamba drifted over to their land from neighboring farms using the chemical. “The New York Times” reported about some growers seeing leaves deformed so badly they couldn’t tell the differences between them. With alarm bells ringing, the state of Arkansas imposed a temporary ban on the product this summer and is considering going the same route again next year while it investigates. Missouri also briefly banned its use, and “Reuters” reports that even the U.S. environmental protection agency is considering imposing limitations where dicamba is concerned.

While investigations into the alleged “dicamba drift” continue, lawsuits are being filed against Monsanto by the farmers who say their crops have been destroyed. Monsanto is responding by saying that almost all of its clients are happy with its product, and that ‘leaf cupping’ is only being reported by less than 1 percent of soybean fields in the U.S. Furthermore, the company says dicamba was heavily tested for drifting, and with proper use, shouldn’t pose a risk to neighbouring farms that don’t use genetically modified seeds. It says more training opportunities will be available in 2018 to help farmers better use the weed killer.

It sounds like more training is desperately needed; “The Times” article points out that current application instructions are confusing, warning users to not spray the product when it’s too windy outside, or not windy enough.

And as for Monsanto’s response to the temporary Arkansas ban on its product? A scare tactic. The company is telling state officials their cotton and soybean producers will fall far behind those across the country because they don’t have access to the weed killer.

So basically, what it’s come down to, is many farmers feel they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. As one told “The Times,” they’re being forced to either buy and grow genetically modified seeds or run the risk of damage should dicamba ever drift into their fields.

It all trickles down to us, the consumers. As I push my son in our grocery cart, I realize that while I may do my best to buy organic and all natural products, I don’t how much longer they will be available to us. As long as there is a possibility of certain chemicals drifting aimlessly through the air, non-GMO crops may become more and more difficult to grow.

A scary thought, isn’t it?


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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.