This article is a follow-up to our recent post exploring the political and community conflicts sparked by expanding use of the pesticide dicamba and describes new research that suggests that dicamba volatility in United States cropping systems may be more likely and widespread than has been understood.
A team of researchers from the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) have produced a set of interactive tools designed to educate consumers about pesticides that are commonly used in the Midwest region of the U.S. The tools span a number of online media platforms and focus on the herbicides that are associated with genetically engineered (GE) crops grown in the region, including glyphosate, dicamba, and 2,4-D.
The CEHN researchers note that each of the herbicides they focus on “has a rich and very long history.” To recount those histories, they have generated toolkits called The Lowdown on Roundup, The Dicamba Diaries, and Dicamba Watch, highlighting “key milestones in the discovery and commercialization, regulation, use, and human health and environmental impacts” of the pesticides. A toolkit covering 2,4-D is forthcoming.
Charles Benbrook, former research professor and agricultural economist with the project, notes that the tools are seeing significantly increased traffic as herbicides have re-entered the spotlight in recent months. In July 2017, farmers filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto, the maker of both dicamba and dicamba-resistant crops, while both Arkansas and Missouri implemented temporary but total statewide bans of the same pesticide in mid-summer.
Glyphosate, dicamba, and 2,4-D have seen widespread use for decades. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains its approvals for all three, limited according to usage recommendations that are printed on the containers in which the pesticides are sold. The CEHN project researchers, however, question the health implications of the ways the pesticides are currently applied. Benbrook was quoted in a recent New York Times article on dicamba warning that, “for both dicamba and 2,4-D, the reproductive risks and birth defects” are “most worrisome.”
The team for the CEHN project, which is called Herbicide Use and Birth Outcomes in the Midwest, represent institutions and universities from across the continent. Some of the researchers have been outspoken against the agricultural biotechnology industry in the past, particularly regarding the implications of the increasing use of GE crops.