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Monsanto asks Arkansas to ban herbicide critic from regulatory hearing

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co has asked
Arkansas to block a member of a state regulatory body from
participating in a hearing next week that could ban a weed
killer linked to crop damage, saying he is biased, the company's
latest attempt to defend the product.

Monsanto wants to prevent Terry Fuller, a member of the
state's plant board, from taking part in action involving new
versions of herbicides that contain a chemical known as dicamba,
according to a letter from the company seen by Reuters.

Fuller, in an interview on Friday, said he represents
Arkansas seed growers on the board and believes the herbicides
are a threat to crops.

The United States has faced a weed-killer crisis this year
caused by the products, which farmers and weed experts say have
harmed crops because they are volatile, meaning they can
evaporate and drift away from where they are applied.

Monsanto and BASF SE, which also manufactures a
dicamba-based weed killer, say the products are safe when
properly applied.

"Not one weed scientist that I know says it's not volatile,
not one out of any state that I can find," Fuller said.

Monsanto is banking on the herbicides and soybean seeds it
engineered to resist them to dominate soybean production in the
United States, the world's second-largest exporter. The company
is battling to stop a proposed ban on sprayings in Arkansas
after April 15, 2018, that would threaten sales, part of a wider
attempt to convince U.S. regulators the product is safe.

The state plant board will hold a hearing on the proposed
ban on Nov. 8.

Monsanto, which is being acquired by Bayer AG for
$63.5 billion, sued Arkansas officials last month to stop the
ban.

In September, the company questioned the objectivity of two
Arkansas weed experts, Jason Norsworthy and Ford Baldwin, who
said the chemical could drift.

Monsanto said it was improper for Fuller to solicit public
comments in favor of the proposed deadline. The company included
with its letter a copy of an email Fuller sent that contained
sample statements farmers could submit to the board in support
of the restriction.

Fuller said he emailed people to encourage them to comment
on the proposed spraying deadline, no matter their opinion.

Arkansas previously prevented farmers from using Monsanto’s
dicamba herbicide in 2017 because the company did not submit
studies the state wanted on volatility.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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