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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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