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Coalition calls on EPA for dicamba residue tolerances

The Save Our Crops Coalition this week petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to establish residue tolerances for the pesticide dicamba for a broad range of food crops, and the makers of the product have responded.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith

“SOCC opposes pending regulatory applications by Monsanto and BASF that would allow widespread use of dicamba-tolerant crops until effective protections are established for nearby food crops. Dicamba tolerances should be established before decisions are made regarding these pending regulatory applications,” said Save Our Crops Coalition Chairman Steve Smith said in a news release.

“In addition to yield reductions caused by direct pesticide damage, farmers also suffer losses when residues of a pesticide are found on a crop for which no tolerance has been established,” Smith said. “Modern testing technologies are so sensitive; trace residues must be recognized as a significant possibility. If no tolerance has been established for a crop, any residue whatsoever makes sale of the crop illegal, so our farmers and processors must destroy the crop.”

“Dicamba is one of America’s most dangerous pesticides for damage to neighboring crops,” he said. “It tends to move from where it is sprayed.”

“We are facing a real threat of dicamba trace residues on various specialty crops. SOCC is filing this petition to ask EPA to determine whether there are safe levels of dicamba residues. Without an established safe tolerance by the EPA, dicamba simply should not be approved for widespread use over our major agricultural production areas,” he said

SOCC is not proposing specific tolerance levels, but is asking EPA to undertake the review “and follow the science to assure food safety with appropriate tolerances,” Smith said.

Monsanto said in an email that the company is already working on the issue.

“Proper stewardship and herbicide use is the best way to prevent off-site movement,” the company said. “We have focused first on investing in training and stewardship tools to provide farmers with the management tools to successfully control tough weeds and coexist with neighboring row and specialty crop producers. The proposed label directions and application use requirements will include wind speed restrictions, nozzle types and downwind buffers.”

“We also have plans to collaboratively conduct testing to establish new uses and residue tolerances for dicamba herbicide on a wide range of sensitive crops, including those listed by SOCC in their press release,” the company added. “The EPA does a full health and environmental safety assessment, including establishing tolerances for all pesticides based on the intended use. We are confident EPA will extensively evaluate dicamba products as it does all herbicides, including their responsible use.”

BASF said it “is currently developing a research and field test program to establish residue tolerances for Engenia™ herbicide on a wide range of sensitive crops.”

"However, tolerances on non-target crops are not a substitute for proper usage and stewardship of this or any crop protection products,” the company added.

“This is why BASF and Monsanto have developed best management practices in support of the dicamba tolerant system including prohibiting aerial application on dicamba tolerant crops and specific nozzle and boom height recommendations.”

“Additionally, BASF will introduce Engenia™ with a wide range of stewardship initiatives such as nozzle programs, online and in-field training, and an online proximity mapping tools indicating buffer distances to non-target areas. BASF also supports industry initiatives such as FieldWatch and the United Soybean Board's development of grower application education.”