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Dicamba

Dicamba is a highly volatile herbicide with a propensity to move onto off-site locations. Brand names include  XtendiMax (a newer formulation made by Monsanto), FeXapan (by DuPont), and Engenia (by BASF). According to the National Pesticide Information Center, more than 1,100 herbicide products contain this herbicide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Monsanto-made, dicamba-resistant crops, which prompted some farmers to spray the herbicide on crops—a use for which it is not approved. Some of these products then volatilized, becoming airborne and moving onto other farmers’ properties, causing tremendous yield loss for their crops. Experts now estimate that more than 3 million acres of soybean farmland have been damaged by dicamba. Many farmers are filing lawsuits against manufacturers like Monsanto and DuPont to hold the responsible parties accountable.

When the herbicide dicamba is applied to non-resistant crops, it can cause extensive damage, ruining entire fields of crops. Class action lawsuits filed against Monsanto and BASF claim that the companies released a dicamba-resistant seed without a safe version of to apply to the seeds. Farmers who had already purchased the seeds felt compelled to illegally apply a volatile version of dicamba, which winds carried well beyond the area of application. Dicamba drift damaged crops on surrounding farmlands with non-dicamba-resistant crops, particularly affecting Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Conventional soybean farmers may have been especially affected by this drift. Dicamba is an herbicide designed to kill broad-leaf plants, sold under names Vanquish, Oracle, Diablo, and Banvel, among others. The herbicide is used frequently in both agricultural and home and garden settings, found in over 1,100 products. When applied to a broad-leaf plant, it acts as a plant hormone, causing rapid and abnormal growth and eventually death. Dicamba is generally thought to be safe for use by humans at standard doses, though there is some evidence for a link between dicamba exposure and colon and lung cancer.

DICAMBA HERBICIDE PROBLEMS

Although dicamba has been around for decades, its approved use was to only be for applications before and after the growing season. This herbicide is a volatile compound, meaning that it can vaporize and spread far beyond the area where it’s applied. Restricting its use to outside the growing season helped prevent damage to crops because there was little risk to crops before they’d been planted or after they’d been harvested. However, recently, interest spiked as a potential way to deal with pigweed, a weed that plagues many farmers, but especially soybean farmers. Pigweed is a broad-leaf weed that’s difficult to remove by hand and resistant to herbicides. Notably, strains of glyphosate-resistant pigweed have become widespread, meaning that even farmers that use genetically modified soybeans that are resistant to glyphosate (which Monsanto sells as RoundUp) can’t rely on glyphosate to get rid of pigweed.

Because pigweed and other weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, Monsanto has been working to make seeds that are resistant to both glyphosate and dicamba. Theoretically, farmers using seeds resistant to both herbicides could spray both glyphosate and dicamba and kill weeds like pigweed without damaging their crops. At the same time, Monsanto and chemical companies like BASF were working to get low volatility versions of dicamba approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so that farmers that wanted to use the herbicide during the growing season would not have to worry about harming neighboring farms that may not use genetically modified seeds. After they succeeded in developing the seeds, Monsanto started selling dicamba and glyphosate-resistant soybean and cotton seeds under the names Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlex Cotton. But they started selling the seeds months before the new, low volatility formulation of dicamba had been approved by the EPA. Some farmers who had already purchased the dicamba-resistant seeds as a way to deal with weeds were unwilling to wait until the new dicamba was approved and illegally sprayed the old dicamba on their fields. The subsequent drift damaged thousands of acres of crops in surrounding farms.

Symptoms of dicamba damage include, but are not limited to:

  • Leaves curled into cup-like shapes
  • Skinny, “strap-like” leaves on areas of newest growth
  • Twisting of leaves
  • Above-ground roots for some annual flowers

Crop damage usually occurs days after the application of the herbicide, but some damage can take weeks to appear. Most often damage from herbicides will not be isolated to a small area. Checking adjacent crops and if possible, crops of a different species, can help establish if the damage is from an herbicide.

The Attorneys at Chhabra Gibbs & Herrington PLLC are currently accepting Dicamba cases. If you or someone you know had their farm affected by using Dicamba, you should contact us immediately for a free case consultation.

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