Farmers Say It’s Nearly Impossible to Follow Monsanto’s Dicamba Directions

Monsanto's dicamba herbicide comes with an astoundingly long list of directions.

Bob Scott, University of Arkansas

Monsanto's dicamba product, going under the name XtendiMax with Vapor Grip, has already come under fire for drifting from farms where it was intentionally applied and onto neighboring fields with crops not bred to withstand it.

Monsanto has previously claimed that “dicamba drift,” the term used to describe the herbicide’s ability to get picked up by the wind and land in neighboring fields on vulnerable crops, is partially the result of user error. But a Reuters report finds that farmers and experts are completely flummoxed by Monsanto’s directions.

This product, both the dicamba-resistant seed and the herbicide itself, is the largest biotech rollout in Monsanto’s history, but it hasn’t been smooth. The company has already been the subject of a lawsuit alleging that the company encouraged buyers to purchase the dicamba-resistant seeds before the dicamba herbicide itself had been approved for use. Then—not surprisingly—there are the many lawsuits seeking damages from Monsanto as a result of non-dicamba-resistant fields that were destroyed by drift.

A new lawsuit, filed in Monsanto’s home base of St. Louis, adds to the pile, noting that the actual instructions for proper spraying supplied by Monsanto are incredibly hard to follow. You can check them out for yourself. The document is more than 4,500 words and demands extremely strict application: A farmer wishing to spray dicamba would have to know the exact wind speed and direction, must have a specific pattern of spray nozzle and pounds-per-square-inch of pressure, must adjust the size of the spray pattern depending on the precise temperature, must not apply dicamba during a temperature inversion (which farmers have to test with a smoke generator), and must triple-clean all equipment after every single use (a process that takes more than an hour). That’s just a taste—each crop has its own list.

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A weed management expert quoted in the lawsuit claims that the instructions are “almost impossible” to follow. Monsanto vice president of strategy Scott Partridge told Reuters that the label “uses very simple words and terms.” This is true; there are few SAT-level words in the instructions. But the mere use of easy-to-understand words does not necessarily make for instructions that are easy to follow. In an email, a Monsanto representative told us: “It is very detailed but our customers are highly intelligent people who want specific, concrete instructions.  They are very familiar with following a label.” Sure, no one’s arguing that, but given the lawsuit, it doesn’t seem that this label is so easy.

Farmers Say It’s Nearly Impossible to Follow Monsanto’s Dicamba Directions