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Tennessee restricts use of Monsanto pesticide as problems spread

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, July 13 (Reuters) - Tennessee on Thursday imposed
restrictions on the use of dicamba, a flagship pesticide for
Monsanto Co, to become the fourth state to take action
as problems spread over damage the weed killer causes to crops
not genetically modified to withstand it.

Dicamba is sprayed by farmers on crops genetically modified
to resist it but it has drifted, damaging vulnerable soybeans,
cotton and other crops across the southern United States.
Farmers have fought with neighbors over lost crops and brought
lawsuits against dicamba producers.

Arkansas banned its use last week and Missouri, which
initially halted dicamba spraying, has joined Tennessee with
tight restrictions on when and in what weather spraying can be
done. Kansas is investigating complaints.

Monsanto, which said it has spent years working to make
dicamba stickier and limit drift when it is sprayed, is
campaigning to overturn the bans.

The company, together with BASF SE and DuPont
, which also produce dicamba-based weed killers, has
agreed to additional safeguards for product use, Missouri
Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said in a statement.

Dicamba is key to Monsanto's biggest-ever biotech seed
launch, which occurred last year. Its Xtend line of soybeans and
cotton are designed to tolerate the weed killer, which replaces
earlier products that contained only glyphosate.

Some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, which
Monsanto introduced in the 1990s. Crop seeds such as corn,
soybeans and cotton are genetically modified to survive the
pesticide while yield-sapping weeds die.

Dicamba has long been used to kill weeds prior to the
planting of crops, but its use has spiked this season across the
United States after regulators last year approved it for crops
that are already growing.

Monsanto sells a new dicamba formulation under the name
Xtendimax. The company says that Xtendimax drifts less than
older versions. BASF and DuPont also sell less drift-prone
formulations.

New restrictions in Tennessee include allowing application
only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to limit potential pesticide drift.

"I'm confident that we can address this issue as we have in
other cases to ensure the safe and effective use of these
tools," Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said in
a statement.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Riham Alkousaa)

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