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What They’re Saying About Dicamba-Tolerant Soybeans

 

You likely won’t see
dicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2014 as previously expected.

That’s because earlier
this month,
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
announced it would be launching an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for
this technology. Monsanto plans to market dicamba-tolerant soybeans under the Roundup
Ready Xtend Crop System. Monsanto and BASF are developing separate dicamba
formulations for this system.

APHIS also will conduct a separate EIS for soybeans
and corn that resist 2,4-D. Tolerance to 2,4-D is featured in Dow AgroSciences’
Enlist Weed Control System.  These
moves will likely delay product launches for both technologies into mid-decade.

These moves are in line with recent court challenges
to biotech products. Federal Courts previously ruled that USDA needed to
conduct EIS’s on
Roundup Ready sugar beets and
Roundup Ready alfalfa.


What’s an EIS?

As you might expect, an EIS examines environmental impacts
of a technology. Impacts listed may be positive, negative, or both. The EIS
will allow a 60-day public comment period.

“What we don’t know is how long the process will take,” says
Shannon Hauf, Monsanto global dicamba and weed management lead. The EIS on
Roundup Ready sugar beets took 15 months, she says.

Monsanto officials are optimistic the EIS will affirm the
benefits of dicamba-tolerant soybeans. Due to herbicide-resistant weeds, there
is a demand by farmers for the product, says Monsanto officials. This demand intensifies
when farmers walk dicamba-tolerant soybean trial fields and see how the system
can benefit them, say Monsanto officials.

“They become ambassadors (of the technology) as they walk
the fields,” says Hugh Grant, Monsanto CEO.

Not all farmers are sold, though. The Save Our Crops
Coalition (SOCC), a group of specialty crop farmers—some who grow soybeans—and specialty
crop processors, was an original petition seeker for the EIS.

SOCC reached an agreement with Dow AgroSciences in 2012, and
supports the Enlist Weed Control System.

Not so with the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System.

“There has not been movement toward a reasonable outcome as
happened with Dow,” says Steve Smith, SOCC president and director of agriculture
for Red Gold, an Elwood, Indiana, tomato processor.

 “It is
extremely disappointing to us. The things we asked for were reasonable for both
sides.”


No Clarity
On Clarity

SOCC is asking for labeling to curtail
chemical application when wind favors off-target movement toward a sensitive
crop, as occurred in its agreement with Dow AgroSciences. The SOCC also asks
Monsanto to omit the use of Clarity in the Roundup Ready Xtend System. Clarity is
a dicamba formulation that SOCC fears will move off-target into sensitive crops
like tomatoes and vegetables.

Monsanto officials say they are sensitive to off-target
concerns. For the technology to be successful, both farmers using it and
neighboring sensitive crop farmers need to have a good experience, says Hauf.

Monsanto officials say the system does omit Banvel, an early
form of dicamba used on corn. It plans to include Clarity, though, in the Roundup
Ready Xtend Crop System.

“Clarity is a significant improvement for volatility when
compared to Banvel,” says Hauf. “All research on Clarity shows it is a
low-volatile formulation.”

Monsanto is developing newer formulations of dicamba that
company officials say are low in off-target potential. Roundup Xtend and
XtendiMax formulations will have low off-target potential, officials say. Roundup
Ready Xtend is a glyphosate-dicamba premix, while XtendiMax is a standalone
dicamba formulation.

Meanwhile, BASF is developing Engenia, a dicamba formulation
low in volatility and drift potential, say BASF officials.

Monsanto plans to exhibit the Roundup
Ready Xtend Crop System through its Ground Breakers program in 2013. Monsanto
officials say this engages farmers in an additional phase of limited on-farm
testing under permit conditions prior to new technology commercialization. This
year, 100 farmers in 16 states will have the opportunity to evaluate the
Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System on their farms in 2013, say Monsanto officials. 

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