Monsanto Expands Louisiana Herbicide Facility, Some Locals Say “Toxic Company” Isn’t Worth the Jobs

Lorraine Chow February 8, 2017

St. Charles Parish, L.A.—Monsanto executives pose with shovels on February 4 after announcing $975 million expansion of Luling herbicide facility.

Mon­san­to has offi­cial­ly bro­ken ground on a $975 mil­lion expan­sion to its Lul­ing plant in St. Charles Parish, L.A. The facil­i­ty will man­u­fac­ture dicam­ba, a con­tro­ver­sial her­bi­cide used in the com­pa­ny’s new Xtendi­Max weed­killer for GMO soy­beans and cotton.

Despite the com­pa­ny’s promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhap­py with the project.

Angry online com­ments have flood­ed the Times-Picayune’s cov­er­age of the Feb. 3 ground­break­ing. The news­pa­per’s Face­book post of the sto­ry has gar­nered 434 shares and 114 com­ments so far, with many peo­ple crit­i­ciz­ing the new plant as well as the com­pa­ny itself.

120 jobs isn’t worth hav­ing this tox­ic com­pa­ny in your back­yard…,” the top Face­book com­ment states. The com­ment was Liked” 117 times.

Dia­cam­ba [sic] is bad. Cal­i­for­nia just won the right to label Roundup as can­cer caus­ing,” a news­pa­per read­er com­ment­ed. So excit­ed for Can­cer Alley to grow.”

Indeed, Cal­i­for­nia could become the first state to require Mon­san­to to label its glyphosate-based her­bi­cide, Roundup, as a pos­si­ble car­cino­gen fol­low­ing a judge’s ten­ta­tive rul­ing on Jan. 27. Mon­san­to oppos­es the rul­ing, say­ing its top-sell­ing prod­uct is safe.

Judge Blocks Mon­san­to’s Bid to Stop Cal­i­for­nia From List­ing Glyphosate as Car­cino­genic https://t.co/srYsV0fmtA @justlabelit @GMWatch

 — EcoW­atch (@EcoWatch) Jan­u­ary 302017

But Mon­san­to’s $975 mil­lion invest­ment on dicam­ba rep­re­sents a major shift from its bread-and-but­ter glyphosate her­bi­cide busi­ness,” as Reuters not­ed. Glyphosate, the world’s most wide­ly applied her­bi­cide, has faced intense back­lash ever since the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion’s can­cer research arm linked the com­pound to can­cer in March 2015.

The oth­er major prob­lem with glyphosate is the pro­lif­er­a­tion of super­weeds” that have grown resis­tant to the her­bi­cide. Mon­san­to’s new Xtendi­Max weed­killer, a com­bi­na­tion of dicam­ba and glyphosate, is designed to address the problem.

Many health and envi­ron­men­tal advo­cates, how­ev­er, are wor­ried that the com­pa­ny’s new focus on dicam­ba will just put the world on anoth­er pes­ti­cide tread­mill and cre­ate stronger weeds.

Pes­ti­cide resis­tant super­weeds are a seri­ous threat to our farm­ers, and pil­ing on more pes­ti­cides will just result in super­weeds resis­tant to more pes­ti­cides,” said Dr. Nathan Don­ley, a sci­en­tist with the Cen­ter for Bio­log­i­cal Diversity.

Dicam­ba was at the cen­ter of major con­tro­ver­sy in the agri­cul­tur­al space last sum­mer. Mon­san­to was crit­i­cized for sell­ing its dicam­ba-tol­er­ant cot­ton and soy­beans to farm­ers for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons before gain­ing fed­er­al approval for the pes­ti­cide that goes along with it.

The U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) only approved the Xtendi­Max for­mu­la­tion in Novem­ber. The EPA’s delayed approval led to farm­ers ille­gal­ly spray­ing old­er ver­sions of high­ly volatile dicam­ba on their crops last sum­mer, spark­ing a mas­sive swath of com­plaints from farm­ers who saw crop dam­age from the her­bi­cide drift­ing onto their fields.

Dam­age was report­ed across 10 states on a num­ber of non-tar­get crops such as peach­es, toma­toes, can­taloupes, water­mel­ons, rice, cot­ton, peas, peanuts, alfal­fa and soy­beans, the EPA said.

10 States Report Crop Dam­age From Ille­gal Dicam­ba Use on Mon­san­to’s GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch

 — EcoW­atch (@EcoWatch) Sep­tem­ber 32016

Xtendi­Max is said to be less drift-prone than old­er ver­sions of dicam­ba. Mon­san­to has also giv­en farm­ers spe­cif­ic instruc­tions for its appli­ca­tion. The com­pa­ny has high hopes for its new prod­uct, pro­ject­ing that the Xtendi­Max sys­tem will be uti­lized on about 15 mil­lion soy­bean acres and 3 mil­lion cot­ton acres in 2017.

Mon­san­to is com­mit­ting to a near­ly bil­lion dol­lar Dicam­ba expan­sion where a new tool to fight inva­sive species/​pests will be pro­duced,” Mike Strain, Louisiana’s com­mis­sion­er of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry, said after the ground­break­ing cer­e­mo­ny last week.

This her­bi­cide should great­ly ben­e­fit our Ag pro­duc­ers. The expan­sion will also bring approx­i­mate­ly 1000 con­struc­tion jobs to St. Charles Parish and about 100 new direct jobs to the area.”

The new facil­i­ty in Lul­ing is expect­ed to be com­plet­ed in 2019.

(Mon­san­to Ground Break­ing Sparks Local Back­lash: 120 Jobs Not Worth Tox­ic Com­pa­ny in Your Back­yard’ was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on EcoW­atch and is repost­ed on Rur­al Amer­i­ca In These Times in accor­dance with their Terms of Use.)

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Lor­raine is a free­lance writer for EcoW­atch. Her jour­nal­ism career began in New York City, where she received a M.A. from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Jour­nal­ism Insti­tute, and where she worked at sev­er­al enter­tain­ment and lifestyle pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing the New York Post’s Page Six.
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