Dicamba on trial: Monsanto officials limited testing on its own plots

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — In February 2015, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considering whether to approve a new Monsanto weed killer anticipated to be sprayed on tens of millions of acres of crops, many researchers wanted to see how the herbicide would work in the field. University researchers had been requesting the tests in order to ease farmers’ fears about crop damage, and Monsanto scientists wanted to conduct tests to help draft recommendations for farmers who would use the pesticide. But knowing federal regulators were paying attention to the new weed killer's potential to contaminate other fields, the company decided to “pull back” on testing to allow dicamba to have a “clean slate,” according to an email from Dr. Tina Bhakta, who, in her role as global chemistry expansion lead for Monsanto, was responsible for obtaining EPA registration for the weed killer. The email was included in Bhakta’s video testimony Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in a civil lawsuit filed by Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in the state, against German agribusiness giants BASF and Bayer, which bought St.