Monsanto has suspended the launch of a pesticide (nematicide) following reports of human rashes and complaints about the company's product.
Monsanto received EPA approval for NemaStrike, a chemical seed treatment that targets nematodes.
According to the AGPRO site, Monsanto froze plans for commercial sales of the pesticide NemaStrike, which can protect corn, soybeans and cotton from worms that reduce yields. The company said it conducted three years of field testing in the United States in preparation for a full launch and that more than 400 people used it this year as part of a trial.
The delayed launch of what Monsanto calls a blockbuster product is another setback for the company, which is already struggling to keep a new version of a herbicide on the market amid complaints that it damaged millions of acres of crops this summer.
"There have been limited cases of skin irritation, including rashes, that appear to be associated with the handling and application of this seed treatment product," said Brian Naber, director of US business operations for Monsanto, in a letter. customers about NemaStrike.
Some users who experienced problems may not have followed instructions for wearing protective gear, such as gloves, company spokeswoman Christi Dixon said.
The company expected the NemaStrike pesticide to be released on up to eight million acres of crops in the US in fiscal 2018, Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said in a conference call last month. The product was "valued at a premium that reflects its consistent performance protection" against worms known as nematodes, he said.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted extensive evaluations of the product before approving its use, according to Monsanto, which described NemaStrike as a "very successful technology." The agency could not be reached immediately after the suspension.
"The technology is effective and can be used safely when the directions on the label are followed," Monsanto said.
Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) proposed in July full registration in that country for NemaStrike technology and its active ingredient, thioxazafen. A public comment period on the proposal closed this summer and registration is still pending.
In tests on laboratory animals, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) said in July that the active ingredient was "minimally irritating to the eyes and did not irritate the skin, and did not cause an allergic skin reaction." But the final product was found to be "mildly irritating to the skin," the agency said.
The EPA last year approved the use of Monsanto's new herbicide dicamba on crops during the summer growing season.
Problems with that herbicide have also arisen since the agency's approval. Farmers have complained that it evaporates and drifts from where it is applied, causing damage to crops that cannot withstand it.
Monsanto, which is being acquired by Bayer for $ 63.5 billion, has said that its dicamba herbicide is safe when applied correctly and that American farmers did not follow label directions.
By Graciela Vizcay Gomez