Since June 2017, the EPA has learned of formal dicamba off-target complaints for this growing season. And as the soybean season progressed, those complaints continued north into Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“The agency is very concerned by off-field dicamba damage,” says Reuben Baris, acting branch chief of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Registration Division herbicide branch. “The underlying causes are not yet entirely clear. We are evaluating all available information.”
There have been 2,400 formal dicamba complaints. There are 3.1 million acres of soybeans affected, and that total doesn’t include other crops.
“We don’t consider this normal growing pains for a new technology,” says Dan Kenny, Office of Pesticide Programs, Registration Division Deputy Director (Acting). “We don’t feel it’s helpful to solve a problem for one grower and create a problem for another.”
The agency officials say the issue with dicamba is very dynamic, and as soon as numbers are reported, they are outdated.
The regulatory agency is reacting to potentially make changes for the 2018 growing season. Of note, EPA has regulatory oversight for the pesticides—not the traited seed.
“We are working as fast as we can to make meaningful changes for the 2018 growing season. We are working with the registrants to make meaningful regulatory changes so growers are able to make the most informed decisions for the 2018 season,” Baris says.
Additionally, the current follow up is informing the approval process for the dicamba formulations, BASF’s Engenia and Monsanto’s XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology, which is also licensed to DuPont and sold as FeXapan, which were registered with a two-year expiration timeframe.
“The 2-year expiration was put in place because of the concerns about resistance and off-target movement. After our review a few things could happen. The expiration could be removed if everything is working well. In the worst-case the risks outweigh the benefits, and the registration expires,” Kenny says.
While the expiration provides a looming deadline, it could be a tool to find resolution.
“Expirations can help get everyone at the table in a short time frame. We hope we can make this a workable program. More tools are important for growers. We have to ensure these products meet the registration standard in order to protect human health and the environment, otherwise, our hands are tied,” Kenny says.