The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened the door for farmers to plant MON87419, a new strain of genetically modified (GM) corn created by Monsanto to tolerate the weed killers dicamba and glufosinate without government oversight. The move will likely increase spraying of the herbicides.
Like earlier strains of GMO corn, MON87419 is designed to withstand being coated in toxic chemicals that wipe out weeds and other plant life on farm fields. The deregulation was announced by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service last Monday. 
The USDA deregulated the strain of corn after Monsanto petitioned the agency in August 2015. The move comes despite 2 dozen unfavorable statements received during the USDA’s public comment period. The consumer rights nonprofit organization Food & Water Watch was one such commenter. The group expressed concern that allowing the proliferation of such herb-resistant crops could “lead to an increase in dicamba use, which will spur the evolution of dicamba-resistant weeds and the abandonment of conservation tillage practices.”
Another commenter included The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which said:
“Without a coordinated and thorough evaluation of the full technology package, and a meaningful analysis of impacts, adding yet another new crop/herbicide package will continue adding to the existing harmful effects on herbicides on ecological systems, human health, and farmers’ livelihoods through herbicide drift and nontarget crop losses; the widespread increase in herbicide-resistant weeds; and environmental and public health impact.”
The coalition called for an environmental impact statement (EIS) to determine what sort of environmental damage the GMO corn strain might cause. 
Monsanto is seeking to use dicamba to diversify and provide long-term growth, as generic products are seriously threatening sales of its blockbuster herbicide, Roundup. Farmers are also looking for alternatives to the toxic, glyphosate-containing product now that weeds are becoming resistant to it. 
According to the Save Our Crops Coalition, dicamba was “designed to eliminate broadleaf weeds, the use of these herbicides has the harmful side effect of injuring broadleaf crops, like soybeans, tomatoes, grapes, green beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons, pumpkins, and other fruits and vegetables. In addition, herbicide application inconsistent with label directions can harm corn production.”
The group states on its website that dicamba is susceptible to drifting and volatilization. Spraying dicamba chemicals in windy conditions can cause particles to float to non-target plants. Volitalization occurs when dicamba is applied to a target site, where it evaporates and is released into the atmosphere in gas form.
Also last week, the USDA deregulated Syngenta’s MZIR098 corn, which is genetically engineered to resist both insects and glufosinate-ammonium. The Franken-corn was deregulated because the USDA determined that it was significantly similar to Monsanto’s MON87419 strain.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.