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Dow and Monsanto testify in herbicide deregulation




Indiana Correspondent


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As the USDA seemingly moves closer to the deregulation of genetically engineered plants resistant to the herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba, those with an interest in agriculture are looking at the benefits – and downside – of such an action.

In recent months, the Pesticide Committee of the Arkansas State Plant Board has heard testimony from representatives of Dow AgroSciences (2,4-D) and Monsanto Co. (dicamba) regarding new plant traits the companies hope to make available to the public in the next couple of years. Company officials also discussed new chemistries they said were designed to better control off-target movement of the herbicides.

"The (plant) board has been very active in protecting other crops from off-target drift," said Darryl Little, agency director for the board. "We have a lot of cotton and rice plants here. Farmers want the new technology, but there are serious concerns about the impact. We have some serious weed control problems due to the resistance to Roundup."

Both companies have spent considerable resources to show their latest technologies will reduce the volatility of their new herbicide formulations by 50 percent or more, said Otis Howe, chair of the Pesticide Committee.

"This would seem to indicate each was aware of the potential for previous formulations of these products to move from the target area," he said during the committee’s June 12 meeting. "The concern expressed by this committee is that given the reputation of both products to be volatile, is 50 percent less volatile enough to ensure that an adjacent or downwind conventional crop would be safe?"

State-level registration


The new technologies will need to be registered in each state and because of that, if other states haven’t already begun discussing the products, they will soon, said Steve Smith, chair of the Save Our Crops Coalition.

"This is something going on in Arkansas that (the other states) should pay attention to," said Smith, also director of agriculture with Elwood, Ind.-based Red Gold.

For boards such as the one in Arkansas, the question of how to come up with regulations that help with weed control while protecting sensitive crops is not an easy one to answer, he said.

"Everybody recognizes, except for the far left-wing people who don’t want anything, that we’re in a situation," Smith explained. "We got ourselves into it. It’s not like a tornado hit. We walked ourselves right through that door.

"Everybody recognizes we do have a challenge. The question is, how do you meet it without creating more challenges? I’d like to think reasonable people can come up with a reasonable response."

Earlier this month, the USDA released Environmental Impact Statements regarding the potential deregulation of Dow’s Enlist corn, Enlist soybeans and Enlist 3 soybeans and Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton. The agency said its preferred alternative is to deregulate all the plants.

The U.S. EPA is also reviewing the use of 2,4-D and dicamba and is assessing the potential for environmental and human risks associated with their use. Arkansas has had some restrictions on the use of 2,4-D since the early 1950s, Howe noted. The state has no restrictions on dicamba.

The Pesticide Committee has three options regarding registering the technologies, he said. It could opt to take no action, which Howe said would allow dicamba to be used without restriction while possibly hindering the introduction of 2,4-D in the market.

The committee could also chose to revise the existing 2,4-D restrictions to "allow for a more level playing field with Monsanto," he stated. "We could (also) try to define the playing field for both on introduction and see what impact the products would have in 2015."

The plant board will make the final decision, Little said, adding he hopes for a determination by the end of the year.