The tensions between Monsanto and the nation's weed scientists actually began several years ago, when Monsanto first moved to make dicamba the centerpiece of a new weedkilling strategy. The company tweaked the genes in soybeans and cotton and created genetically modified varieties of those crops that can tolerate doses of dicamba. (Normally, dicamba kills those crops.) This allowed farmers to spray the weedkiller directly on their soybean or cotton plants, killing the weeds while their crops survived.[...]Dicamba, however, has a well-known defect. It's volatile; it tends to evaporate from the soil or vegetation where it has been sprayed, creating a cloud of plant-killing vapor that can spread in unpredictable directions. It happens more in hot weather, and Monsanto's new strategy inevitably would mean spraying dicamba in the heat of summer.[...]"If this were any other product, I feel like it would be just pulled off the market, and we'd be done with it," Scott says.But dicamba, and the crops created to tolerate it, aren't just any products. There is big money behind them. Monsanto, seed dealers, farmers who are struggling with weed problems -- they all have a stake in this technology. The university scientists who are pointing out problems with them are confronting an economic juggernaut.[...]Bradley says executives from Monsanto have made repeated calls to his supervisors. "What the exact nature of those calls [was], I'm not real sure," Bradley says. "But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with not being happy with what I'm saying."I contacted three academic deans at the University of Missouri, asking for details about the calls. A university spokesman said they were too busy to respond.Monsanto's Partridge says, "We are not attacking Dr. Bradley. We respect him, his position, opinion, and his work. We respect him, and academics in general."Bradley says criticism from people in Missouri's farming community whom he has known for years hits him even harder. "To have somebody say that what [I'm] saying is bad for Missouri agriculture, that's a hard one to take," he says. "There's not a lot of glory in these positions, or major financial incentive. We chose these jobs to help the farmers in our states."
This will continue to happen every 10-20 years with new chemicals to battle resistance to the older stuff. But choosing a volatile compound is certainly shooting yourself in the foot.Although I read that many newer varieties of dicamba are bound, it's the older stocks that are volatile and until these stocks are depleted in some fashion this problem will persist.