Reclaiming the future of food and farming

USDA ignores farmer opposition, approves Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant seed

For immediate release: January 15, 2015

Contact: Paul Towers, Media Director, Pesticide Action Network,, 916.216.1082 

Washington, DC - Despite receiving thousands of comments in opposition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today approved Monsanto’s newest seed products — soybean and cotton varieties genetically engineered to withstand applications — and drive up sales of the company’s drift-prone herbicide, dicamba.

With USDA’s approval, growers can expect use of dicamba to increase dramatically in both crops. According to USDA data and Monsanto projections, dicamba use in cotton is expected to increase by 14 times current levels, while use in soybeans is expected to surge by up to 500 times current levels.* Farmers predict that such a dramatic increase in use of dicamba — a highly drift-prone chemical known to be extremely toxic to most plants — will result in more frequent and devastating damage to vulnerable crops and increased pesticide exposure for rural families.

Most at risk are fruit, nut and vegetable growers in the Midwest. As Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, one of the nation’s largest full-line tomato processing companies, testified before Congress in 2010:

"I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide [poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest."

Meanwhile, Monsanto’s response to farmers’ concerns about crop damage has been to develop exceedingly complex and demanding protocols for applying and disposing of the herbicide cocktail, including a ten-step triple rinse of sprayers that is likely to take more than an hour and then entails proper disposal of the contaminated rinse water. This ‘solution’ puts all responsibility on farmers, and sets up the company to escape liability for crop damage.

As PAN’s Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman says,

“Monsanto’s newest product is the latest in a slew of bad ideas — bad for farmers, bad for rural communities, bad for American agriculture. USDA’s approval today signals their continued contempt of farmers’ concerns, and their allegiance to the largest pesticide corporations. We stand with farm families in opposing this decision and call instead for public policy that protects rural communities and promotes agroecology.”


* Projected increases of dicamba use in soybeans are based on current use levels (USDA-NASS 2013 published data, referenced in EIS Appendix Table 4-1, p. 4-4) and  Monsanto’s anticipated use patterns (EIS Appendix Table 4-9, page 4-17).