Farmers need new GMO herbicide technology

I support the registration of new GMO herbicide technology. I am not in love with the technology for any reason other than we need it for weed control and I believe that the technology is safe. Efforts to derail various approvals, labels and registrations seem as much or more political than they are based on science.

The truth is we need these technologies. We are fighting pigweed with resistance to four major groups of chemistry that previously were effective. In some fields we are down to only three effective modes of action left and two of those are pre. You must have an effective post option to give pigweed the one, two punch. It scares me that in these resistant fields we are down to one — Liberty.

Registration of Xtend (dicamba- and glyphosate-tolerant) and Enlist (2,4-D-, glufosinate- and glyphosate-tolerant) soybeans is in a dangerous spot. Inexplicably the Chinese failed to approve Enlist, the one they have had the longest, and did approve Xtend. Conversely we have a federal label for Enlist but not Xtend. Monsanto is free to sell Xtend cotton and soybeans, but currently it is illegal to apply available formulations of dicamba over the top of them. If pigweeds come up in these fields, it’s going to be like handing a guy dying of thirst a glass of water and telling him not to drink it!

I hope growers of Xtend crops will resist the temptation to use off-label forms of dicamba. (1) It is illegal, plain and simple. You could lose your crop. (2) The formulations of dicamba available over the counter today do not have reduced volatility like the ones that we have been looking at — Engenia from BASF and Vapor Grip from Monsanto. The ones you can get prior to registration of the improved products are more prone to drift.

I am surprised at how many growers I talk to do not understand how sensitive soybeans are to dicamba. It is worse than 2,4-D to cotton by a long shot. Dicamba drift can affect yield of conventional soybeans, especially during the early and mid-reproductive stages, according to our research.

If we do get a lot of “off label” applications this year and end up with dicamba symptoms everywhere, it will only hurt the odds of getting a federal and state label in time for 2017. In addition, it could impact the development and registration of future herbicide technologies to come, like HPPD soybeans and Provisia rice (non-GMO, but still needing approvals). In the long run, it even hurts the odds of new non-GMO technologies, because companies have invested millions and must recoup these costs before looking for the next new thing.

I think this will be big year for LibertyLink soybeans. I continue to hear that seed companies have seed but are encouraging growers to get them booked because they are going fast. A few, from what I can tell, have brought back LibertyLink and traded for Xtend soybeans since the China approval. This concerns me. If you were growing LibertyLink soybeans, you probably knew you needed them for pigweed, so what are you going to do about pigweed in Xtend soybean? I hope you are not making off-label applications, and I hope FlexStar still works!

It can be frustrating: waiting, following the rules, and needing the new stuff badly, but I cannot change the rules. At the end of the day, the process is there to protect the consumer, the environment and the end user. Whether you believe this is fair or relevant, it is the system we operate under. Help us to speed this process as much as possible by not breaking the rules now that we are so close to having these new tools and new tools to come.

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