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Award-winning author, founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and the Real Food Media Project.
"Agent Orange" Crops Would Trigger Massive Increase in Use of Toxic Pesticide 2,4-D
January 3rd, 2014

Center for Food Safety Vows to Lead Food Movement in Opposition

Center for Food Safety (CFS) today declared strong opposition to the next generation of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans designed by Dow Chemical to withstand application of the toxic pesticide 2,4-D. The declaration comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an “Environmental Impact Statement” which recommended approving the GE products for commercial use.  Center for Food Safety launched a petition [link] to allow consumers to voice their opposition to the crops developed under the brand name “Enlist”.

“We expected better from the Obama Administration,” said Center for Food Safety executive director Andrew Kimbrell. “This is among the worst applications of biotechnology. ‘Agent Orange crops’ are designed to survive a chemical assault with 2,4-D. They will increase the use of toxic pesticides in industrial agriculture while providing absolutely no benefit to consumers.”

2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), produced by Dow Chemical, was a component of “Agent Orange,” the toxic defoliant used on Vietnam. 2,4-D and other herbicides of its class have been independently associated with deadly immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems.

USDA’s review of 2,4-D corn and soybeans comes despite intense opposition from over 365,000 individuals, 48 medical and health professionals, and 144 farm, fishery, public health, consumer and environmental groups and private businesses who registered objections with USDA. 

“We are extremely disappointed with USDA’s review of 2,4-D corn and soy,” said Kimbrell.  “If finalized, this decision would launch American agriculture into a new era of vastly increased dependence on more toxic pesticides. The Obama Administration must overturn this dangerous and misguided proposal.”

Penn State scientists have projected that widespread cultivation of 2,4 D resistant soybeans would trigger a substantial increase in the use of 2,4-D.  “Enlist” crops would increase agricultural use of 2,4-D to over 100 million lbs. per year, four times current levels. 

“Any increase in the use of 2,4-D with Enlist corn and soybeans will hit rural communities especially hard, as numerous medical studies have linked 2,4-D and related herbicides to increased rates of cancer and Parkinson’s disease as well as low sperm counts in farmers, and to birth anomalies in their children,” said Kimbrell.

“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said CFS board member and Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor.  “When Dow Chemical and Monsanto first brought out 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 and many farmers are using older, more deadly pesticides to kill them.  2,4-D corn and soybeans just keep us on the same old pesticide treadmill; it’s a terrible idea.”

American farmers are also concerned that cultivation of Enlist corn and soybeans 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.

Dow is marketing “Enlist” corn and soybeans 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 found that Enlist crops will trigger an outbreak of still more intractable weeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D.

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