Prominent doctors, scientists and business leaders today urged Congress to pressure the Obama administration to reject an application to market “Enlist DuoTM,” a new toxic herbicide mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing an application from Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co., to sell Enlist Duo for use in agriculture. Enlist Duo would be used on millions of acres of farm fields in combination with a new type of herbicide-resistant, genetically engineered crops.
The medical and scientific experts told a Congressional briefing that this would put human and environmental health at risk.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is weighing a separate application from Dow to market corn and soybean seeds that the company genetically engineered to tolerate the 2,4-D/glyphosate combination.
Those who spoke at the briefing to oppose Dow’s application included Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Catherine Thomasson of Physicians for Social Responsibility, John P. Wargo, Ph.D. of Yale University, Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D. of Center for Food Safety and Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm and the advocacy group Just Label It.
“Exposures to herbicides in early life can lead to disease in childhood or disease later on in adult life or even old age,” said Dr. Landrigan, dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Herbicide chemicals can also cross from mother to child during pregnancy and prenatal exposures that occur during the nine months of pregnancy are especially dangerous.”
“Physicians are very concerned about exposure to the combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate because of the potential lifelong and irreversible effects on the health of vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women and farm workers,” said Dr. Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Policy decisions should take into account the costs that can result from failure to act on the available data on toxic herbicides.”
Americans are already exposed to 2,4-D in herbicides applied to lawns, turf grass and other non-agricultural sites. Exposure to the toxic defoliant has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease as well as immune system, thyroid and reproductive problems. Glyphosate is the harmful active ingredient in Roundup, the infamous weed killer developed by chemical giant Monsanto.
“2,4-D already is permitted by EPA to remain as residues on over 300 different forms of food,” said John P. Wargo, Ph.D., professor of environmental health and politics at Yale University. “Spraying millions of additional acres with these chemicals will increase their contamination of soils, surface and groundwater and foods bearing their residues. If applied by aircraft, sprays will drift to adjacent lands, potentially endangering those who reside, go to school or work nearby.”
Crops genetically engineered to withstand Roundup were introduced in the mid-90s. As scientists predicted, weeds quickly developed resistance to the herbicide, which in turn led to the use of hundreds of millions more pounds of the weed killer than would have occurred without these crops.
“The toxic herbicide mix is being proposed because glyphosate alone is no longer working, since its overuse has led to the development of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It. “This ‘chemical treadmill’ benefits the GE patent holders at the expense of farmers, human health and the environment.”
“The biotech industry is about to repeat the same mistakes that got us into this predicament,” said Doug Gurian Sherman, Ph.D, senior scientist with Center for Food Safety. “The public must demand policies and research that help farmers adopt proven, ecologically-based farming systems with minimal pesticide use that are productive, profitable and better for society.”
In June, 35 doctors, scientists and researchers, including Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu of Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra, a retired division chief of the California Department of Public Health, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging her to deny Dow’s application.
Before the public comment period ended, EPA received half a million comments opposing the controversial proposal.
“The risks of approving a new 2,4-D mixture are clear,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group. “If approved, the use of 2,4-D would increase three-to-sevenfold by 2020, according to the USDA. The risks are too great and benefits too few to jeopardize public health and the environment.”