There’s a problem in farm country this year: Acres of crops are unexpectedly withering away, but it’s not due to drought or natural blight. Instead, the crisis seems to be related to a new herbicide from Monsanto. Users of the recently released plant-killer didn’t realize it would spread beyond their fields, because — according to a new report — Monsanto skipped over tests that would have highlighted this problem.
The product is a new formulation of the chemical dicamba, which Monsanto sells as XtendiMax with VaporGrip. And Reuters reports today that Monsanto went to significant lengths to avoid submitting XtendiMax to testing that would determine how much drifting on the wind it would do.
University Researchers Barred From Looking
Reuters spoke with several of the independent researchers — at universities in Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois — who had contracts with Monsanto to test pre-release samples of XtendiMax.
These contracts are common, Reuters explains. When a company like Monsanto is developing a new agricultural product, it commissions tests from independent labs and then submits the results and data to regulators. A company will also provide samples to universities for more testing.
University researchers say they asked permission to study the volatility of XtendiMax — that is to say, how likely it is or isn’t to vaporize and drift across fields on the wind — but were denied. In fact, their contracts with Monsanto explicitly forbade doing volatility testing, several researchers said.
One added that being blocked from doing some certain kind of test was extremely unusual. “This is the first time I’m aware of any herbicide ever brought to market for which there were strict guidelines on what you could and could not do” in testing, a scientist from the University of Arkansas told Reuters.
Monsanto told Reuters that the company blocked the testing because they did not feel it was necessary — and because it would hold up their release schedule.
“To get meaningful data takes a long, long time,” a Monsanto executive told Reuters. “This product needed to get into the hands of growers.”