Rogue weedkiller vapors are threatening soybean science

Published: August 2, 2019
Categories: Dicamba Disaster, The Organic & Non-GMO Report E-News

It’s not just non-GMO soybean fields, peach and cypress trees, and tomato plots being decimated by drift from the herbicide dicamba—it’s harming research being done at universities.

Pengyin Chen, professor of soybean breeding and genetics at the University of Missouri, has seen soybean damage—curly leaves, fragile side branches—for three years, since introduction of Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant varieties. “It’s very discouraging, and very hurtful, as a scientist,” he said. “You see all the research being affected. And we were not able to do a scientific analysis of the data.”

Farmers love dicamba’s weedkilling prowess, but evaporation and drift are so widespread that farmers are being forced to grow the GM soy varieties, to prevent catastrophic losses. As a public breeder, Chen represents non-commercial alternatives to private industry, creating soybean varieties cheaper than commercial ones and allowing farmers to re-use seeds year to year.

Public breeders are custodians of genetic diversity. “If you kill the public research programs, who is going to study disease resistance, or stress tolerance?” asked Chen. “Those efforts are going to be gone.”

The Universities of Nebraska, Kansas State, and Arkansas have also seen damage in test fields. Even GM seed companies like Stine Seed and BASF see dicamba damage in their research plots. Bayer insists that dicamba is not harmful when used correctly, but research institutions are worried: dicamba-tolerant soybean acres are on the rise, with U.S. farmers projected to plant 50 million acres this year—60 percent of all soybeans planted nationwide.

Source: National Public Radio

To view full article, visit:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/07/19/742836972/rogue-weedkiller-vapors-are-threatening-soybean-science