Protecting Endangered Plants, Saving Roundup

Monsanto Co. is launching a new Web program to help your dealer-applicators and grower-customers locate and protect endangered plant species.

The manufacturer of the non-selective herbicide Roundup, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, has created a  new program to tell dealer-applicators and growers where, when, and how much they may spray glyphosate-based herbicides. The program is run through a new Web site, It aims to protect threatened and endangered plant species from aerial spraying or ground application of glyphosate, an ingredient in numerous pesticides.

Monsanto says it wants better product stewardship. Monsanto’s effort to protect endangered plants is also geared toward bolstering future prospects for Roundup, one of its key products.

"We don’t want anything bad to happen to endangered plants," says Bradley Mitchell, a Monsanto spokesperson. "It’s not good for our customers, and it’s not good for us."

The key challenge is that many growers may not know that their land is close to property containing endangered species. That puts fragile plants in adjoining land at risk. Pre-Serve’s database of maps and instructions is designed to help growers who plant Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant plants locate endangered species nearby and adjust pesticide use accordingly.

The company expects relatively few growers will have to change their practices now that Pre-Serve has come into effect. But many growers licensed to buy and use Roundup Ready seeds — which withstand the herbicide — will need to at least log on to and check for restrictions before spraying.

Growers will be able to plug in their state, county, and specific planting areas — using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. Then, if threatened species are nearby, they are to follow a sheet of directions to make sure their air-sprayed herbicides do not drift off-site.

The allowed intensity of spraying depends on the size of the droplets and the width of the buffer zone between the spraying and the endangered species, as well as wind speed and direction.

Monsanto’s program mimics a nascent initiative from EPA called Bulletins Live. Monsanto said its program will be fazed out when Bulletins Live is up and running. A congressional mandate requires the agency to review every pesticide currently on the market within 15 years. EPA plans to use GPS technology to create a vast database with detailed instructions to guide growers on proper pesticide use.

Monsanto is voluntarily launching Pre-Serve, but there is nothing voluntary when it comes to your grower-customers’ contractual obligations. As of September, the license agreement between Monsanto and growers who buy seeds containing Roundup Ready traits requires that the growers "observe all mitigation instructions" on the Pre-Serve Web site.


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