Monsanto Co. invited dozens of weed scientists to a summit this week to win backing for a controversial herbicide, but many of those scientists have declined, threatening the company’s efforts to convince regulators the product is safe to use.
Creve Coeur-based Monsanto faces a barrage of lawsuits over its dicamba herbicide and risks of tighter restrictions on its use, after the chemical drifted away from where it was sprayed this summer and damaged nearby crops unable to tolerate it.
Arkansas and Missouri suffered the most complaints of U.S. states with damage linked to dicamba. Weed scientists from the two states declined to attend the summit on concerns about Monsanto’s response to the incident.
The company plans to present data at the summit that it says show user error was behind the damage, contrary to academics’ findings that dicamba products can vaporize and move off target under certain conditions in a process known as volatilization.
To prevent damage next year, states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are considering new rules for usage, decisions to be based partly on advice from university weed scientists invited to the meeting, whether they attend or not.
Tighter restrictions could hurt sales of the herbicide or of Monsanto soybean seeds engineered to resist the chemical, the company’s biggest ever biotech seed launch.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch