USDA deregulates Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant traits

New tool to combat glyphosate-resistant weeds makes another step toward introduction.

Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) deregulated Monsanto Company’s soybeans and cotton that are resistant to certain herbicides, including one known as dicamba.

Monsanto said the technology offers new weed management solutions, providing farmers with more consistent, flexible control of tough-to-manage broadleaf weeds.

“This announcement marks an important milestone for farmers around the world,” said Robb Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “Weeds represent a key pest to agriculture operations around the world and limit crops of much-needed nutrients, sunlight and access to available water resources. We’re excited to provide additional tools that can help improve efficiencies on farm and support farmers in bringing more food to harvest for consumers.”

Fraley added that Monsanto has been working to bring the new technology to the market over the last 10 years. The hope is it can offer another tool to combat glyphosate-resistant weeds from Monsanto’s Roundup technology.

In a statement from Monsanto, it said commercial intentions would be announced in the near future. Reuters reported that Monsanto was waiting for Chinese approval of the new soybean variety and expected to have it in time to begin sales of the variety in 2016.

USDA said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nearing completion of its concurrent review of the new use of the related herbicides on these GE plants. It is expected that EPA will make its proposed regulatory decision in the coming months.

Environmental groups decried the approval. Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter in a statement noted that USDA’s Environmental Impact Statement predicted that dicamba use will increase 88-fold and 14-fold for soybeans and cotton, respectively, compared to current levels.

“Dicamba-tolerant crops will allow for wider windows of spraying throughout the season at unprecedented levels. Now that dicamba will be used in larger quantities, Monsanto has petitioned the EPA to increase the tolerance level of dicamba on cottonseed 150-fold,” said Hauter. “Higher levels of dicamba in the environment and our food pose unacceptable risks to human health and a wide variety of flora and fauna.”

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