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A chemical meant to save plants is actually killing them—and it's spreading (STA BREAKING NEWS and ARCHIVES)

by Theresa @, Saturday, September 09, 2017, 21:34

An American farm is as much of a marvel of modern chemistry as it is of Mother Nature. This time of year, the landscapes across states like Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas are commanded by verdant fields of billowing corn and low-slung bushes growing soy. The crops' successes can be attributed to the soils and the rains, of course. But for better or worse, we've also got synthetic fertilizers made from natural gas, insecticides designed to stop voracious critters, and weed killers like 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid (better known as dicamba) to thank for the bounty.

But the relationship between plant and chemical has grown volatile. According to research out of the University of Missouri, dicamba is has harmed more than 3 million acres of soybeans in more than 1,400 separate incidents, across 20 states. Are we planting the seeds of our own demise?

Why are we using dicamba?

As far as modern herbicides go, dicamba is fairly old. But while the chemical has been in use since the 1940s, that use has been limited until recently. As of 2012, the most recent year for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has compiled data, the chemical ranked towards the bottom of commonly used pesticides. Its bottom ranking was likely due its tendency to drift onto other fields—and the fact that it is virulently toxic to soybeans, a staple crop in much of the Midwest. Soybeans are processed into oil and protein to feed animals, with a smaller portion of the harvest ending up in human products: soy milk, tofu, etc. Soybeans also play a crucial role in maintaining the region’s soil health by replacing the nitrogen that corn, another staple crop, tends to remove.

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