USDA Gives Green Light to 2,4-D Resistant GM Crops

Posted on Jan 3 2014 - 10:30pm by Sustainable Pulse

The USDA has issued a draft statement essentially giving the green light to the marketing, sale and planting of GM corn and soybeans resistant to the hazardous herbicide 2,4-D.

Press release Pesticide Action Network/Food & Water Watch, January 3, 2014

Dow Chemical’s GM corn will trigger a huge increase in the use of the toxic herbicide 2,4-D.

Farm, food safety, health and environmental advocates denounced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which essentially gives the agency’s green light to the marketing, sale and planting of new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean designed to be resistant to the hazardous herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).

Sustainable Pulse would like to remind readers that Australia banned the use of 2,4-D HVE in 2013 over environmental concerns

USDA’s “preferred” determination that 2,4-D corn and soy need not be regulated under the Plant Pest Act comes despite intense opposition over the past two years from farmers and over 400,000 other individuals and more than 150 farm, fishery, public health, consumer and environmental groups and private businesses. The agency’s release of its draft EIS today opens a 45-day public comment period.

Critics contend that cultivation of the new GE corn, developed under the brand name “Enlist” by Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, will lead to dramatically increased use of 2,4-D, damage to non-GE crops—especially fruit and vegetable crops—and adverse effects on farmers’ livelihoods, as well as rural communities’ health and environments.

Noted agricultural scientist Charles Benbrook projects that widespread planting of Enlist corn could trigger as much as a 25-fold increase in use of 2,4-D on corn, from an estimated 4.2 million lbs. at present to over 100 million lbs. by 2019. USDA’s own estimates given in the EIS predict a two to six-fold increase in the herbicide’s use. 70 doctors and health professionals have already urged EPA to reject Dow’s application for new uses of 2,4-D on the GE corn.

Despite acknowledging the expected increase in 2,4-D use, USDA argued that the seed by itself poses no risk to other plants and thus requires no agency oversight. American farmers, however, are deeply concerned that Dow’s Enlist corn system will threaten their crops. 2,4-D drift is already responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide, and its vastly increased use promises still more damage to crops like soybeans, cotton, vegetables and fruit.

“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer, George Naylor. “When Dow and Monsanto first brought out these GE crops, they assured us their new, expensive seeds would clean up our environment and reduce pesticide use. That didn’t happen. Today weeds are resistant to RoundUp, so farmers are using older, more deadly herbicides. 2,4-D corn is a giant step backwards; it’s just a terrible idea.”

“Enlist” corn is one of 8 herbicide-resistant GE crops pending approval by USDA. The others are herbicide-resistant varieties of soybeans (5), cotton (1) and creeping bentgrass (1). Two of these (soy and cotton) have been engineered to be used with dicamba, another notoriously drift-prone herbicide closely related to 2,4-D and known for easily damaging farmers’ non-GE crops. In 2013, USDA rapidly approved 7 other herbicide-resistant GE seeds, as the agency sought to speed up its GE crop approval process.

“GE herbicide-resistant seeds are clearly the growth engine powering the pesticide industry,” noted Pesticide Action Network senior scientist, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman. “These seeds are part of a technology package explicitly designed to drive up herbicide sales. By continuing to rubber-stamp its approval of Dow and Monsanto’s latest products, USDA has abandoned its responsibility to safeguard American farmers’ crops, health and livelihoods.”

“We are extremely disappointed with USDA’s impending approval of 2,4-D corn,” said Food & Water Watch assistant director Patty Lovera, referring to the agency’s draft EIS.  “USDA is propelling American agriculture further down a path of increased dependence on older, more toxic pesticides.”

Medical studies have linked 2,4-D and related herbicides to increased rates of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, low sperm counts in farmers and birth anomalies in their children. 2,4-D has also been shown to cause liver and nerve damage, as well as hormonal disruption. “Any increase in the use of 2,4-D with Enlist corn will hit rural communities especially hard,” Dr. Ishii-Eiteman explained. “Farmworkers and other rural residents will also be at risk,” she added.

Critics point out that Dow is marketing 2,4-D corn as a response to a problem created by first-generation GE herbicide-resistant crops—specifically Monsanto’s “Roundup-Ready” varieties.  Over the past decade, Roundup-Ready crops have triggered massive use of the herbicide glyphosate and an ever-expanding epidemic of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds.”

While Dow claims that 2,4-D crops will alleviate the superweed problem, a recent peer-reviewed study concludes that the opposite is true.  The report, “Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management”, finds that Enlist crops will trigger an outbreak of still more intractable weeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D.

USDA notes that the Environmental Protection Agency will be conducting its own risk assessments to determine that agency’s approval of Dow AgroScience’s proposed new uses of the 2,4-D herbicide.

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9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. amanda burns January 5, 2014 at 04:42 - Reply

    i just cannot imagine this even being an issue. nothing is more important than the health of our planet and the creatures living on it. if we do not have safe air, water, and food, then we have nothing at all.

  2. paul cunningham January 5, 2014 at 06:37 - Reply

    Big industry is somehow always steamrolling over the people with the blessing of government. Put it together. Unless there is OVERWHELMING outcry made over this and other crucial issues it will remain the same. It is possible. SOPA and PIPA were abandoned by a once-willing congress because the public outcry freaked them out. This is the only case in recent history where the people changed political history simply by calling congress (though similar internet control laws are secretly part of the TPP.)

  3. tara shiningstar January 6, 2014 at 09:35 - Reply

    45 public comment period, where do we go for that please?

  4. That dude January 6, 2014 at 16:34 - Reply

    In the beginning of this article 2, 4-d is referred to as a herbicide and in the next paragraph it’s referred to as a pesticide. 2,4-d is a herbicide. This paragraph is confusing …. “GE herbicide-resistant seeds are clearly the growth engine powering the pesticide industry,” noted Pesticide Action Network senior scientist, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, why are herbicide resistant crops powering the pesticide industry?? I’m on your side really but please get you poisons straight because this article makes you look pretty amature.

    • Sustainable Pulse January 6, 2014 at 18:10 - Reply

      Dear Sir/Madam,

      Please note this is a press release and that 2,4-D is both classed as a Pesticide and Herbicide.

      Kind Regards,
      Sustainable Pulse Team

  5. Heidi January 6, 2014 at 18:28 - Reply

    I am completely dumbfounded that this “herbicide” would even be a consideration in our country! It is terrible that it was used in Vietnam. I have a brother-in-law that suffers from horrific side effects from this and the thought of it being used to aid in good crop development for consumption by human beings is absurd!
    I agree with Paul, we are always being told what is going to be by our government. WE pay them, WE elect them, WE need to be the voice of reason when it comes to idiotic moves such as this.
    I agree that we need to control weeds as they do affect the yield on crops. My husband and I have farmed for over 30 years. Through these years there were changes that came down regulating many areas, most for the better. This is not a change for the better, it will be a tragedy for our people in years to come.
    Come on leaders of our country! You are there to do what is best and right, this is a terrible choice in moving forward to better any issue that has to do with the food of this country. It would be the same as allowing a silo full of contaminated milk from medicated cattle to be processed and sold for human consumption all because the cows needed the medicine.
    Pease get your head in the right place and look at the WHOLE picture not just a bandaid to fix the weeds in the corn fields!!

  6. Kynthia January 6, 2014 at 22:31 - Reply

    I am a Vietnam era veteran. We used to all it Agent Orange, but I imagine 2,4D label makes it all safer. Please explain that to my fellow veterans who have developed developed these “little” side effects. And are now disabled.

    • cascadian12 January 7, 2014 at 20:17 - Reply

      So the USDA argues that “the seed by itself poses no risk to other plants” and therefore requires no oversight, but that’s like saying a gun by itself poses no risk. A gun isn’t a risk until it’s picked up by somebody. Will that person be law-abiding, be trained, be sane? We don’t know. Same with 2,4D.

      In the real world, the risk of 2,4D comes with human use of this herbicide, which is to say with any use. It can easily be contaminated with TCDD (an extremely toxic dioxin compound) through over-heating. Will “accidents” happen? Will this product be used legally? What are the consequences of allowing this use? We’ve already lost most of our Monarch butterflies – a miracle of nature – due to the overuse of Roundup made possible with GMOs.

      The same people who brought us Agent Orange and destroyed Vietnam want to bring back 2,4D for use in our backyards:

  7. Robert January 7, 2014 at 08:18 - Reply

    Another payoff accepted by USDA.

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